Man charged fro graffiti in Gladstone Park
by BRIAN NADIG
A man was charged with felony damage to property following his arrest at about 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, in connection with reported graffiti incidents in Gladstone Park, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police.
An off-duty officer allegedly saw a man using a black 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 at a local dollar store, police said.
The suspect was identified by police as Spencer Becker, age 28, of the 5400 block of North Magnet Avenue. He was charged with three counts of damage to private property and one count of damage to public property, 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 2 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 2 weeks several businesses, bus stops and mailboxes were hit with graffiti in the 5300 and 5400 blocks of Milwaukee Avenue and other areas, 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 graffiti and said that to property owners graffiti is more than a 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.
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.
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.
Aaron said that the district will continue to conduct missions targeting problem areas of graffiti for the next 2 weeks.