By Megan Dooley
Two juveniles were arrested on March 15 and charged with criminal damage to property for graffiti incidents in River Forest and Forest Park. Both admitted to being part of a larger social circle of graffiti artists that targets public property in the two villages, Oak Park, and surrounding areas.
The West Suburban Gang and Drug Enforcement (WEDGE) task force launched a mission to track down individuals tagging public property on March 14, after a number of new graffiti "tags" were discovered on Madison Street from the 7400 block to the 7700 block. Officers from both the River Forest and Forest Park jurisdictions banded together to investigate the incidents. "It was a WEDGE mission because it was inter-jurisdictional," said River Forest police Chief Gregory Weiss. "The officers took advantage of having the extra pull of resources."
In the afternoon on March 14, the two juveniles were discovered in River Forest and found holding multiple cans of spray paint. Weiss said that River Forest Sgt. Martin Grill was patrolling the area and spotted the offenders with spray paint on their hands. They were stopped and searched, and Grill discovered cans of spray paint in their possession. The two juveniles were taken into custody. The first, a 17-year-old, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor criminal damage to property. The second, a 16-year-old, was charged with one count of misdemeanor criminal damage to property.
Each suspect admitted to the individual acts of vandalism discovered in River Forest and Forest Park, using the tags "Loud," and "Focus," and confessed to tagging locations in Oak Park. Initial revelations from the two youths pointed to membership in a local circle of taggers, but Weiss said that in the time since the arrests, police haven't established any connections between the two juveniles and other local vandals. "I don't know to what extent," they are involved with a larger graffiti circle, Weiss said.
He added that the juveniles were responsible for extensive graffiti throughout the three towns, and that the River Forest department has dealt with one of the juveniles in the past regarding acts of vandalism.