By BOB NORBERG
AND JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT (Santa Rosa, CA)
A Santa Rosa man suspected of being the prolific tagger "El Barto," whose widespread graffiti has caused about $100,000 in damage, was arrested Friday, police said.
xxxx, an 18-year-old Santa Rosa Junior College student, is suspected of several hundred graffiti incidents throughout Sonoma County and in other parts of the Bay Area during the past year, making him one of the region's most active vandals, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.
His tag has been prominent on freeway railings and overpasses, homes, commercial buildings, fences and signs.
"I even saw him once on Lombard in San Francisco," Banayat said.
After a monthlong investigation, xxxx was arrested at a first-floor, one-bedroom Ridgway Avenue apartment where he lived with his father, xxxx, across the street from the Santa Rosa City Schools District administrative offices.
Youth soccer trophies filled half of xxxx's closet shelf.
"Unfortunately, he was a class-one player," said an undercover detective who was cataloging evidence. "Probably had a lot of talent."
Contacted by phone, xxxx's father declined to comment.
Police took away 10 brown paper grocery bags of evidence. There were bags full of spray paint cans, spray can accessories, including an array of different nozzle tips, and pencil sketches of tags that had been sprayed around Santa Rosa.
Art textbooks were on the floor of the bedroom and the living room.
On the floor was a pair of black Converse low-tops, and on the heel of one shoe was drawn a cartoonlike face that, said Georgia Pedgrift, coordinator of the Police Department's graffiti abatement program, was a hallmark of xxxx's tags.
A similar face was drawn in black marker on the bumper of xxxx's gold Mitsubishi Montero, which was parked outside.
xxxx's tagging signatures were "El Barto" and "Bart," police said. Pedgrift said it was apparently inspired by the alias that the TV cartoon character Bart Simpson uses when he vandalizes property.
"He's incredibly bold, incredibly bold, which is the game," Pedgrift said. "That's the whole point of tagging, to pick highly visible spots where there's a high risk of getting caught."
By those standards, she said, "he was the leader of the pack in Santa Rosa."
Banayat said graffiti is a huge problem in Santa Rosa, and very little of it is gang-related.
"It is on every corner in the city. A lot of the tagging is related to tagging crews who do this as a matter of entertainment, getting notoriety, getting their names up. The more they get up and the more prominent the place, the more famous they become, while destroying other people's property," she said.
He is being held on multiple counts of suspicion of vandalism. Bail was set at $100,000, Banayat said.