Tooele businesses combat spike in graffiti with murals


TOOELE, Utah — Police said Thursday they were investigating a spike in graffiti cases as business leaders said they were trying to combat the problem with planned artwork.

According to Tooele City Police Department Cpl. Colbey Bentley, cases have gone up considerably in recent months as several graffiti artists have targeted the downtown area.

“Almost every night the past few months we’ve had at least one or two new tags come up,” Bentley told KSL TV. “At this point, I believe we have three, four, five different people doing different forms of graffiti that are 20, 30, 40 pieces each.”

Numerous pieces of graffiti were visible in the downtown area Thursday afternoon.

Police said they made one arrest of a 32-year-old man on April 7 and had been working to identify others responsible.

“I believe the person we’re looking for right now is responsible for about 75% of the graffiti we’re seeing in the city right now,” Bentley said. “There’s a big process that we have for putting this together. There’s a lot of ‘Are we looking at the same paint colors?’ ‘Are we looking about the same time they were done?’ ‘Are we seeing the same tag in this location as this tag?’ In a lot of different tags, it is excruciating work to try and tie different tags together.”

Police have been urging businesses to install security cameras outside to potentially catch taggers in the act and they’ve been telling anyone downtown who witnesses suspicious activity to report it.

Bentley acknowledged that property crimes were tough on businesses that are often left to cover the costs of cleaning up the damage.

“It’s just what they feel is a revolving door of continually getting victimized,” Bentley said.

As investigators worked to get to the bottom of it all, the Tooele Downtown Alliance said it was working to combat graffiti with murals.

One already adorned the wall of Tyson Hamilton’s shop, Another Man’s Treasures.

“We’re looking at doing two more here coming up in the next year-and-a-half-or so,” said Hamilton, also chairman of the downtown alliance. “People will drive around looking for murals to get pictures in front of them.”

He hoped the murals sent a message to graffiti artists and taggers that they could better spend their time on more meaningful art.

“You want to do art, that’s art,” Hamilton said, pointing to the mural on the wall next to him. “Graffiti is not. You want to be appreciated for what you can do, do one of these.”

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