Police: Tagger used acid on windows

April 2, 2010 9:55:59 AM PDT
The two-year search for an alleged tagger accused of causing thousands of dollars in damage may be over. Police say Eddie Garcia used acid to deface hundreds of windows.

Most of the damage was caused on Chicago's Southwest Side. Garcia was arrested Wednesday. Authorities say they caught him in the act.

When there is a steady diet of violent crime for police to tend to, property crime -- of necessity -- takes on a lesser priority. But it's often said, if a neighborhood has lots of broken windows -- in this case defaced windows -- and little is done to fix the situation, it affects quality of life and invites more crime. And that's why police were determined to catch a tagger they consider "a one man crime wave."

"SOAR" is his tag. It's written on hundreds of store windows throughout Gage Park and beyond. Beauty parlors, laundromats, restaurants. It looks like a thin brush of white paint, but it's not.

"It smears off, but it's still on there," said Oscar Marquez, auto parts store manager.

It comes back because it's acid, typically used in glass etching. Once you apply it, you most generally are not going to be able to buff it out. The window is wrecked.

"This is the second time they write on the window, so it's a big problem for us," said Miguel Cordero, optical store owner.

"It's gonna cost me a lot of money to replace this window. Look at it. It's huge," said Marquez.

"If we add up all the damage that he's incurred over the last two years, we'd be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Cmdr. John Kupczyk. CPD 8th District.

For nearly two years, police in the Chicago Lawn District have been trying to catch the tagger who writes "SOAR", and early Wednesday morning while running surveillance, they did.

Police have charged 23-year-old Eddie Garcia, who they say has admitted his tagging. He is charged with three felony counts of defacing property, nine misdemeanors, and police say that number will probably grow.

Garcia remains free on bond.

Within the tagging subculture, getting your brand out there is meant to impress other taggers. It's a crime easily committed.

"It's not a crime of hatred, not a crime of passion, not a crime of financial gain. It's just mindless destruction of property for absolutely no reason," said Kupczyk.

The distinction between the felony and misdemeanor counts against Garcia are based on the value of the windows that have to be replaced. Police say $300 is the felony threshold. They also say they intend to seek restitution from Garcia -- if he is convicted -- to the extent he can pay it.