Woonsocket Police have made two unrelated arrests of graffiti artists marring city and private property in recent weeks.
Two predominant “tags" — graffiti slang for the artistic vandalism — were “GRIME” and “STENE,” said Woonsocket Police Public Information Officer Det. Jamie Paone. She said the tags have been showing up across the city on street signs, on railroad tracks and on local businesses' property. The vandals appeared to be pretty active, Paone said.
Acting on complaints from the city of Woonsocket, Providence and Worcester Railroad, Wojick’s Farm Produce and The Plastic Group, Det. Jason Berthelette started investigating the spray paint tags Sept. 5, according to a release from Paone. She said police were notified to the vandalism Sept. 1, but it may have started sometime before then.
Berthelette spoke to a witness who identified a 15-year-old as a graffiti artist responsible for some of the tags. On Sept. 9, Berthelette arrested the juvenile, charging him with four counts of vandalism.
On the same day as that arrest, at 5:45 p.m., police were called to the foot bridge between Cumberland Street and Woonsocket Middle School for a man spray painting the bridge. Officer Enrique Sosa, who was on duty in the area, spotted Carlos Mojica, 25, of 257 Willow St., walking away from the bridge, and called to him to stop.
Mojica ran from Sosa instead, but the officer caught him near the basketball courts in the Middle School parking lot. Sosa reportedly found a can of spray paint and a knife on Mojica. Sosa arrested him, charging him with vandalism, possession of illegal weapons other than firearms and resisting arrest. There were also two outstanding warrants for the alleged vandal.
Paone said vandalism is the type of problem that seems to feed on itself if left unchecked. Visible tags tend to encourage others to follow suit, she said. Beyond that, "We don't think these two cases are related," Paone said. "There might be others."