NIAGARA FALLS – Just a few years ago, the Graffiti Task Force was created in Niagara Falls and the city’s police force worked hard to both identify and clean up the graffiti left by street gangs.
The report of a gang of skateboarders suspected of defacing a local business on Buffalo Avenue last week – using spray paint to leave obscene and hateful message and also causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage – has reminded police that they can’t let their guard down for one minute.
“We haven’t seen it in awhile, a least the skateboard graffiti-type tagging. So before it can get any legs we want to address it,” said Niagara Falls Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto.
“Two years ago we formed a Graffiti Task Force. For a six-month period we were getting hit really hard by it. We went out and investigated the graffiti crime in the city, taking pictures and identifying the graffiti. Once the graffiti was identified they were able to question some individuals and bring the whole case to closure with an arrest and prosecution with felony criminal mischief charges.”
DalPorto said in this most recent case he feels confident that by using the same investigation techniques they can also bring this case to a close.
B.F. Patel, the owner of 900 Buffalo Ave., the former Moore Business Forms, said Thursday that blue and orange racial and ethnic slurs spray painted on his walls are likely to cost $30,000 to repair because the limestone “sucks the paint in.” He told police the only way it can be removed is to replace the stones. Nine stones were damaged.
Patel told police that the night before he dispersed about 15 skateboarders who were on his property.
Hate crime charges have been alleged in the case due to the nature of the writing on the wall, but unrelated damages using similar paint were also reported in other sites.
Police said blue graffiti caused $1,000 damage to a large decorative stone commonly used for seating in the 100 block of Old Falls Street.
“Some of the surfaces they have painted on can’t be cleaned off. When you are talking about repainting an office building that expense goes pretty high.
“You can’t just get a bucket and soap and wash it down. It’s there. It’s permanent they have to paint over it and sometimes they have to sand it down,” DalPorto said.
He said skateboarding itself can be an additional problem.
“We don’t want to give kids who are skateboarding a hard time, but the city spent a ton of money to beautify that area and the wear and tear by [skateboarders] using the concrete benches and planter boxes as obstacles is really significant,” DalPorto noted.
“Driving by in the car you don’t see it, but if you walk around you see how they are chipping the edges of the concrete. They put wax on the concrete benches, which the state or city put in, to make a smooth path for their skateboard. It makes it useless [for everyone else] because if you sit on it your pants will get all dirty.”
“People are allowed to skateboard as long as it doesn’t infringe on other people or break the law,” DalPorto said. “When business owners ask them to leave and they start using that kind of language and then return to intimidate that person – we are not going to allow that to happen.”