San Francisco police arrest alleged serial tagger

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco Police arrested a man they describe as a serial tagger.

Officers say they've been trying to catch the person responsible for the graffiti seen up and down Market Street all the way to Treasure Island during the past six to eight weeks.

Police tell KTVU the suspect was caught at Dolores Park Thursday morning around 11.

Officers say he was armed with a bag of spray paint, admiring his own handiwork.

The $20 million dollar Dolores Park renovation project is among the tagger's many targets. He has tagged mailboxes, pavement and homes. "It makes me mad that somebody's going to mess up my city. I love this place," said Chuck Griffin of San Francisco, who says he's seen the graffiti from his Upper Market neighborhood down to the Financial District.

The prolific tagger paints the words "cryst" and "sheep."

Police have arrested 18-year-old Andrew Yarbrough of San Francisco. He declined to answer when a KTVU crew asked why he tagged public and private property

But he did answer one question regarding what "cryst" and "sheep" mean. He answered the question as police moved him from the Mission Police Station to book him at the Hall of Justice into the county jail. "Cryst means crystal meth. Sheep means conformist gentrification," said Yarbrough.

He is facing 10 felony and 17 misdemeanor vandalism counts.

"I was really grateful to the SFPD," said Dr. Kathleen Kennedy, who owns an optometry practice in the Castro. She says the tagger left his mark on her new awning which cost her $3,600. Now, she hopes the city will hold the person responsible accountable.

"I have staff. I have a lot of expenses as a small business owner. It's not as bad as physical violence, I agree. But it's still a serious crime," said Kennedy.

Police say it was a man in the Upper Market area who saw Yarbrough tagging public property Thursday morning and called 911. Police Captain Dan Perea tracked him down to make the arrest.

"He was at Dolores Park up at the tennis courts, holding a cell phone and pointing it in the direction of a wall that had the tag that said c-r-y-s-t," said Captain Perea. Police say Yarbrough had paints on him when officers approached him.

The Public Works Department says the graffiti has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in cleanup.

"He's also put a scar across the city. This is not art. This is blight and it's taking a toll on our beautiful city. We're really glad he's caught. We hope he's the right one and the criminal justice system takes care of him," said Rachel Gordon with San Francisco's Public Works Department.

A spokesman for the District Attorney's Office tells KTVU these type of vandalism cases are difficult to prosecute.

He says judges often reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors and that means vandals often serve only minimal time in jail.

Police and the Public Works Department hope the strong evidence and an eyewitness in this case will help the prosecution.

Public Works says it plans to consult with the City Attorney's office to see if it can take civil action against the person responsible.