By Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — Police allege a 16-year-old boy caused thousands of dollars in damages to property he tagged with the letters "KOSK" in blue spray paint. Police said the defaced property included a sign in front of the Sign Center on Orchard Street, a sign for parking at the downtown train station and U.S. postal trucks parked behind the post office in Washington Square.
When investigators executed a search warrant at a home on Claremont Avenue they found cans of blue spray paint, drawings of the letters "KOSK" as well as stolen license plates and street signs.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said the large number of tagging incidents since the Fourth of July triggered an investigation leading to yesterday's arrest. Additional arrests are possible.
Police are not releasing the name of the boy as he is a juvenile and said he will face charges in Lawrence Juvenile Court.
"It certainly was an increase in tagging so it led us to believe there were one or more individuals; probably going out at night and spraying in the cover of darkness," Thompson said.
The boy was arrested on 14 counts of malicious damaging of property and four counts of receiving stolen property - stolen license plates and city street signs, police said.
Police spokesman Detective Lt. Robert Pistone said the search warrant was the result of an investigation over the past week concerning a rash of graffiti tagging throughout the city, including at the public library, on U.S. Postal trucks, billboards, at the Haverhill MBTA station and numerous private businesses.
"The majority of citizens and business owners of Haverhill work hard to maintain their property and do not deserve to have their property vandalized by senseless acts of graffiti that costs the property owners thousands of dollars in damage in some of these cases," Pistone said.
Police say they received a slew of reports since Friday and that thei investigation focused on the "KOSK" tag. Other incidents of tagging that were either reported or discovered by officers on patrol are not part of the investigation that led to yesterday's arrest.
Those other incidents include tagging on a rear wall of the Nettle Middle School. On Monday, school custodian Ronald Lavoie discovered a spray-painted image of a mouth and teeth and what appears to be a large bloated image of the letter "S" on the building's rear brick wall.
"I don't have the equipment to remove it, so I hope the Sheriff's Department can send its graffiti crew," Lavoie said.
Thompson said that either police or the city's Highway Department will work to put in a request to the Essex County Sheriff's Department to send its anti-graffiti truck to the city.
"One way or another they'll get it removed," Thompson said.
Police were notified yesterday of tagging on the rear wall of a building and on a dumpster at 140 Hale St.
"It's a tag that we've noticed in several other places in the city," Thompson said yesterday.
Police were also notified of tagging at 515 Hadley West Drive. Thompson said someone spray painted black letters on a dumpster and a basketball court.
Thompson said an officer on patrol yesterday discovered tagging on the Woolworth building on Merrimack Street.
On Saturday, Public Library Director Carol Verny said she received a call about graffiti that was painted on the auditorium wall facing summer street.
"It was a small patch of blue, some kind of design," Verny said. "The custodian removed it and painted over it."
"We have a lot of pride in our library and our city and would never let graffiti or anything else that detracts from the building linger," Verny said. We don't want people to see it as we don't want more people thinking they can get a way with it."
Haverhill Police are urging property owners who have not yet reported recent graffiti vandalism to call police at 978-373-1212 so that additional charges may be filed.