The Carbondale Police Department received reports on Aug. 9 of graffiti at the Dinkel Building, which followed a rash of vandalism in town parks. During the next few weeks, the police were made aware of even more graffitied sites around town. The Town spent around $5,000 cleaning up the graffiti, according to Chief of Police Kirk Wilson.

Almost all of the graffitied sites were marked with “tagging” — a type of quickly-drawn signature which distinguishes the person responsible to other taggers and, consequently, the police. The two most common tags seen at the various locations were “Buda” and “Raz.”

Tagging rose in popularity within urban communities during the late 20th century, and street artists often draw a distinction between graffiti and tagging. Tagging refers to graffiti artists simply spray painting their name or pseudonym on a public space, whereas graffiti is the artwork sometimes seen alongside tags.

Carbondale Police Department and Glenwood Springs Police Department took note of the pattern of these two taggers and narrowed their search down to two juvenile suspects who have both been arrested and charged with 12 counts of criminal trespass and one felony count of criminal mischief.

At this time, there are no other suspects, and the graffiti has mostly come to a screeching halt since the suspects were apprehended, according to Carbondale Public Information Officer Anna Ramirez. “We haven’t heard of any other cases since we arrested the two juveniles. Every once in a while, we’ll have a wave of criminal mischief, like in public bathrooms or schools, but it was really bad this time,” she said.

Further downvalley, a former Rifle High School student who dropped out in 2021 was arrested on vandalism charges on Sept. 4. “The frequency of our tagging is not sufficient enough to establish a pattern, but in years past we have used that technique to identify suspects,” Rifle Police Department Public Information Officer Angela Mills told The Sopris Sun.

Considering the age of the three suspects that have been arrested in the Valley over the past month, some community members have raised questions about whether teens are getting into trouble due to a lack of youth-friendly activities in the area. “We can’t say exactly why it’s happening. It’s hard to tell if [the lack of youth-friendly activities] is a factor. It just really depends. I mean, we can’t say that it’s due to no activities in town,” said Ramirez.

Wilson echoed Ramirez, saying, “I couldn’t even begin to speculate on that. The police department here certainly comes into contact with juveniles that have been brought into the system for criminal mischief, vandalism and things like that, and there’s a whole screening process that they go through, but I just couldn’t even begin to break that down.”

The costs of cleaning graffiti, between labor and materials, were also absorbed by local business owners as well as other community members. “We’ve had public works employees helping out with cleanup, and we’ve also had parks and recreation employees helping out. And then on top of that, we’ve had multiple individual building and property owners doing the cleanup on their own,” Wilson said.

Because it is an ongoing case involving juveniles, Wilson and Ramirez were unable to provide details about their investigation process. They will continue collecting evidence from the different work crews and community members who did cleanup up until the suspects appear in court and potentially after that. As far as the investigation leading up to apprehending the two suspects, “We saw the monikers ‘Buda’ and ‘Raz’ and the different repetitions of certain symbols or letters put together,” Wilson said. “It’s a whole different language, but we received a tip from Glenwood PD and that led us to identifying the first suspect.”

As far as graffiti cases in the future, Ramirez and Wilson expressed tentative optimism. “We hope that it decreases. From what I can tell from our system, there’s already been a massive decrease since we arrested the two suspects. And we’re hoping that it continues to go down like that, but we never know when the next group of kids will come around,” Ramirez remarked.