Alderman Gardiner takes graffiti problem to social media; suspect arrested on Sunday
by BRIAN NADIG
A man was taken into custody at about 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, in connection with reported graffiti incidents in the Gladstone Park area, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police.
An off-duty officer reported seeing a man using a marker to write on a bus shelter in the 5200 block of North Northwest Highway and on garbage cans in a shopping center in the 5300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, according to police.
The man reportedly was found with markers at the time of his arrest, and charges are pending, police said.
News of the arrest follows a social media campaign by Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th) in which he offered an award of up to $500 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect following numerous reports of graffiti in the past two months in the ward.
In many instances city crews had the graffiti removed within hours of it first being reported, Gardiner said. In the past two weeks several businesses, bus stops and mailboxes were hit with graffiti in the 5300 and 5400 blocks of Milwaukee Avenue, he said.
Gardiner said that he decided to take the matter to social media after it became apparent that vandals were targeting certain areas as fast as crews could remove the markings. He said that graffiti serves as “blight” on a neighborhood and generates a “depressing” atmosphere.
On social media some criticized Gardiner, arguing that graffiti is a normal part of urban life and that city officials have bigger problems to worry about.
Gardiner responded that he is proud of how the community rallied to express outrage over the recent graffiti and said that to property owners, graffiti is more than a minor nuisance. “Ask a business how it feels when it has markings on its front window (or) a resident when it’s on a garage,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner said that he believes in “second chances” and hopes anyone arrested for graffiti will want to redirect their energies in more positive ways, including talking to area youth about why graffiti is wrong.
The off-duty officer who reported the graffiti has refused the reward money, and those funds will go toward the installation of a mural on the side of the ward office at 5425 W. Lawrence Ave., Gardiner said. Prussing School students will be working on the project, he said.
The reward money was put up by Gardiner and the following area businesses: Marino Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, Stronghold Jiu-Jitsu and Flash Limousine and Bus.
Meanwhile, the 16th District is reminding property owners to report graffiti to police.
Community policing sergeant Jeff Aaron said that the reports help investigators when gathering evidence and that the district assigns crime-fighting resources based on patterns.