Police: Alleged San Francisco serial tagger makes 1st court appearance

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KTVU) - A man San Francisco police call a serial tagger made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

City officials say he's caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage to public and private property.

Police say they have their suspect, 18-year-old Andrew Yarbrough, but prosecutors say they still have their work cut out for them.

The words "cryst" or "sheep" have been written on public and private property all along Market Street, in a number of neighborhoods and beyond.

Just in one area near the intersection of Division and Brannan, KTVU counted a dozen tags.

"We need to look after our neighborhoods. This is ridiculous. This guy was prolific," said Doug Powell who lives near upper Market Street.

On Wednesday afternoon, Yarbrough of San Francisco made his first court appearance with his father by his side. He faces 10 felony and 20 misdemeanor counts of vandalism and possession of graffiti tools. Yarbrough pleaded not guilty.

"It's really early on in the case. At this point, these are just allegations," said Ariel Boyce-Smith, Yarbrough's public defender.

On Thursday after police arrested Yarbrough, KTVU asked the suspect what the tags "cryst" and "sheep" mean?

Yarbrough replied, "Cryst means crystal meth and sheep means conformist gentrification."

Police say they have strong evidence against Yarbrough including bottles and cans of paints officers found on him and an eyewitness who says he saw Yarbrough tag public property.

The police captain who arrested Yarbrough estimates the vandalism cost more than $30,000. "Our graffiti abatement crews were chasing this guy for six to eight weeks," said Rachel Gordon, the spokeswoman for the Public Works Department.

Gordon says the department is working with the City Attorney's office to take civil action to get restitution

"This person might think it's a badge of honor to be one of the most prolific taggers in San Francisco. I look at it as a badge of shame," said Gordon.

The District Attorney's Office says vandalism cases are difficult to prosecute because judges often reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors.

In Yarbrough's case, he was released from jail on his own recognizance the day after he was arrested.

"A court magistrate essentially released this defendant prior to the case even getting to our office," said Alex Bastian, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office.

On Wednesday afternoon, the judge set conditions in Yarbrough's case.

The court ordered the 18 year old to stay away from locations he's accused of tagging.

Police can search him and his property without probable cause and without a warrant.

The D.A'S office says the conditions will help protect the community while the prosecution builds its case.

"You have to be able to prove in the court of law that someone's graffiti is actually the same from this location as opposed to another location," said Bastian. .

The D.A'S office says convictions in vandalism cases often result in a combination of jail time, restitution and community service.

Andrew Yarbrough is due back in court April 1.