AZUSA - Police arrested a 15-year-old boy they described as the most "prolific" tagger in the city responsible for at least $58,000 in vandalism damage.
Police took the boy into custody at about 7:30 a.m. on Monday during an operation that involved a search of the boy's home.
Police officials said the boy may be part of multiple graffiti crews and was known by at least two monikers throughout the city.
"He get's around," Sgt. John Madaloni said. "In my 19 years, I can't recall any graffiti related series of crimes that has come near these numbers."
The boy is believed to be the culprit in 250 acts of vandalism in Azusa and neighboring cities, Madaloni said. His monikers - either TIPS or SPIT - have been found on poles, street signs, city walls and businesses.
He will be cited for multiple acts of criminal vandalism, but will most likely be released into his parents' custody after being booked by police.
The boy could be one of the first taggers cited under a new city ordinance that allows the city to fine taggers up to $500 for each act of vandalism, with a cap of $37,000.
Madaloni said he doesn't expect to test the ordinance's limits with the boy, but officials do expect to make parents and graffiti offenders aware of the potential hit to the pocketbook that tagging can create.
"We don't want to be overly punitive, but we want them to know we aren't turning our back," Madaloni said.
The city ordinance is an important tool for police because the juvenile justice system is overburdened and often the district attorney's office doesn't seek prosecution of juvenile vandals, Madaloni said.
"We are no longer at the mercy of the court system," he said.
During a search of the small two-bedroom apartment where the boy lives with his family, police uncovered a foam mattress pad in the living room covered in the same graffiti monikers the boy is suspected to use. Police also found a baseball cap with graffiti on the bottom of the cap's bill and an Ax deodorant spray can covered with the same tags.
Despite living with several siblings all under 18, police were not able to find any tools for graffiti in the household, including no markers, stencils or other art supplies.
"I didn't expect a whole, whole lot, but I did expect more than this given the frequency and scope of what he has been doing," Madaloni said.
Police have been investigating the case actively for about three months, though they believe the boy has been tagging in the city since at least January.
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