UPDATE (2:12 p.m.)—Local organizations have a message for graffiti vandals: Prepare to be caught, fined and possibly thrown in jail.
The Perry Hall Improvement Association and the Perry Hall White Marsh Business Association have joined forces to sponsor a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of local taggers.
The reward will be administered by Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland, an organization that offers cash rewards for anonymous tips. Graffiti incidents are usually classified as misdemeanors, but if information leads to the arrest and indictment for a felony crime, the organization will pay tipsters an additional $2,000.
The reward was announced shortly after District 5 County Councilman David Marks and District 6 Councilwoman Cathy Bevins announced a bill to double fines for those convicted on graffiti charges.
"This joint effort reflects that graffiti is a concern of residents and businesses in Perry Hall," said Dennis M. Robinson Jr., president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association.
Robinson said that the reward sends three strong messages to graffiti vandals:
- First, we will not tolerate this type of activity in Perry Hall.
- Second, there is a substantial incentive for people to turn you in if you are “tagging” property in Perry Hall.
- Third, residents and businesses in Perry Hall are committed to helping the police identify and arrest you.
Capt. Michael Balog of the White Marsh police precinct helped organizations coordinate the reward, said Robinson. The White Marsh precinct has been a major point of contact in organizing the community's fight against graffiti.
Local graffiti has grown into a major problem since summer 2010, striking businesses from Bill's Seafood to A Total Difference hair salon. Several shopping centers, government property and even a church have been targeted.
Finding suspects in graffiti crimes can be incredibly difficult for police, said Officer Edward Borman of the Parkville precinct, a regional expert on local tagging incidents.
"We just try to catch them. There's no real strategy," said Borman. Because crimes are sporadic and often committed very late at night, it's difficult for police to catch taggers without help from the community, he said.
Borman, who also works as a law enforcement liaison with Perry Hall businesses, said that incidents should be reported to the police soon after they happen.
"A lot of business owners think that it's just their problem and they don't report it," he said. "When we do catch them, we need to be able to go back and identify their tags."
In past cases, he said, suspects have been arrested, but have escaped paying for damages because business owners did not report graffiti incidents to police.
Business owners and members of the community should call 911 whenever they see new graffiti, he said. Afterward, the graffiti needs to be removed as soon as possible, he said, preferably within the first 24 to 48 hours.
When it stays up for extended periods of time, it inspires other taggers to imitate or outdo each other, said Borman.
While the PHIA agrees that graffiti should be removed as soon as possible, it has no intention of making business owners pay a fine for not promptly removing graffiti, said Robinson.
"Although we want to work with the appropriate Baltimore County agency or agencies to explore ways we can help businesses remove graffiti, I want to emphasize that we do not intend to contact code enforcement to report property owners who have graffiti on their property," he said.
Metro Crime Stoppers can be contacted at 1-866-7-LOCKUP (1-866-756-2587). Tips may also be sent by text message to "CRIMES" (274637), followed by a message starting with "MCS," or e-mailed to metrocrimestoppers.org.