MONROE – It sounds like a plot from “CSI”: a secret informant, shoe prints and police photographs.
Monroe police said Friday they used these and other sophisticated investigative techniques to bust a teenage graffiti ring.
The vandals are believed to be responsible for a dozen graffiti cases, tagging as many as 30 buildings and causing thousands of dollars in damage, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.
“We are using every tool that we have to get into the community, because somebody knows who’s doing this,” she said.
Monroe city officials have noticed an increase in graffiti this year, Willis said.
That is, until now, she said.
On Thursday, police arrested a 16-year-old Monroe boy. The boy was booked into the Denney Juvenile Justice Center for investigation of first-degree malicious mischief, a felony.
The teenager’s graffiti typically featured a serpentlike creature and the word “Rome,” according to court documents.
A confidential informant helped lead police to the teenager, the documents said.
Police also had collected shoe prints from the roof of a building where tagging occurred.
Officers noticed that one of the shoe prints had a distinctive style. The tread was a zigzag pattern and was worn on one side, court records show.
The arrested teenager is now cooperating with police, Willis said.
“We do plan future arrests,” she said.
This year, Monroe passed an ordinance designed to crack down on graffiti. Among other restrictions, the law requires property owners to quickly cover up graffiti.
A similar law recently was adopted in Marysville.
While graffiti can be associated with criminal street gangs, about 80 percent is called “tagger graffiti” and is often painted or drawn by teenagers, experts said.
“This is the work of individuals,” Willis said, not gangs.
Cleaning up graffiti can be costly. Last year, Everett spent nearly $15,000 to clean up graffiti at three city parks, including Silver Lake, Walter E. Hall Skate Park and Sullivan Park. It cost about $4,000 to clean up the Marysville Skate Park when vandals hit it last summer.
The graffiti in Monroe was on both public property and privately owned buildings, Willis said.
With the arrest of the teenager and the recent police investigation, the graffiti has let up, she said.
“There has been a marked decrease in graffiti in the city,” Willis said.
Herald writer Jim Haley contributed to this report.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.