SPRINGFIELD — Some may call it art, but police say if you’re caught tagging buildings with spray paint they will put you behind bars.
Three buildings were vandalized earlier this month. The former Community Hospital on East High Street, a Columbia Gas substation on Fostoria Avenue and a shopping center on South Burnett Road were all marked with black spray-painted graffiti.
Suspect descriptions led to the arrest of 19-year-old Christopher Lebaroff. In Clark County Municipal Court Thursday, he pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal mischief — third-degree misdemeanors.
He admitted to Judge Eugene Nevius the majority of the graffiti found was done by him and apologized for his actions. He will be sentenced next Wednesday. Nevius said at least part of his punishment will include removing the graffiti.
Mike Bussey, who works at Thrifty City where some of Lebaroff’s graffiti was found, said the markings make a bad impression on potential customers.
“It just kind of scares them off,” Bussey said. “People think, ‘Well, maybe I just better not go in this place here.’ It does make it bad for business.”
That’s the reason why Springfield police Lt. Noel Lopez said officers will show zero tolerance for those who create graffiti.
“We’re just making a real effort to take these people off the street and get this activity to stop,” Lopez said.
The city partnered with the Clark County Waste Management District and Keep Clark County Beautiful to purchase equipment to quickly remove graffiti in 2009. A trailer contains a water sprayer that uses a special “media” powder to remove paint on hard surfaces within seconds, said Steve Schlather, program coordinator.
“The best way to prevent graffiti is to get rid of graffiti as soon as it occurs,” Schlather said. “(Otherwise) other artists see it and it attracts more tags.”
The trailer is mostly used to remove graffiti from public property, but those owning a “prominent” private property can rent the trailer.
Private companies must train their own staff to use the equipment and fund the purchase of the powder — typically about $40 a bag, Schlather said.
Applications can be submitted to the waste management district by calling (937) 521-2020.
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