4/20/2014

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Police: Gas Works vandals putting themselves, cleaning crews in danger

Police: Gas Works vandals putting themselves, cleaning crews in danger
SEATTLE -- A 30-year-old Washington man died Monday while attempting to vandalize a Sacramento high rise, and police in Seattle say local taggers are taking the same risk.

Police say vandals make it their mission to hit places that are extremely hard to reach, which puts both the tagger and the cleaning crews in danger.

Unlike Monday's death in California, where a Vancouver man was found hanging from an 18-story building, police in Seattle aren't aware of any recent graffiti-related deaths. But Gas Works Park is one place where injuries are common.

Most visitors at Gas Works Park come for the views, but some come to deface property by leaving their names or symbols etched into historic artifacts.

"I ultimately think it's wrong because it's everyone's property and for one person to in a way trash it -- even though it may look cool-- not everyone wants to see that," said park visitor Troy Hodges.

Besides being an eyesore, the tagging at Gas Works is also dangerous. A teenager was critically injured just last weekend after he fell off some park machinery. Police believe the teen may have been there to vandalize the property.

It's illegal to have surveillance cameras in city parks, which Seattle police Det. Chris Young said makes preventing the vandalism even tougher.

Young investigates vandalism all across the city and said I-5 by the ship canal is another trouble spot. The express lanes close overnight, so vandals walk up the on ramp, climb down the freeway and onto the bridge.

Young said they're often drunk or high when they do it.

"People mistakenly think it's about the art," he said. "Most of them aren't particularly talented artists, but they're in it for thrill-seeking behavior -- to get that adrenaline rush."

In the University District, graffiti artists use a free wall to express themselves in a place that's less risky than a bridge or an old building.

"If they're putting themselves in danger, it's one thing," said artist George Brudi. "And if they're putting the public in danger, if they're writing obscene things on the freeway, then it's bad."

Despite the perception that graffiti is associated with gang activity, Young said the majority of Seattle graffiti is not gang related.
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