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Business owners applaud vandalism arrests

Last Monday was a red-letter day -- but not for the graffiti vandals, for a change.

Police arrested four men on graffiti charges, including a 22-year-old Buffalo resident who has been described by community leaders as one of the area's most active and harmful vandals.

"It's been a great week, the best week we've had downtown, as for graffiti vandals being caught," said Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place, which markets the downtown business district.

Each suspect was released on his own recognizance.

Business owners on the Elmwood strip and beyond cheered the news that Eric P. Osborne, 22, of Bryant Avenue, was among those nabbed.

He's suspected of marring many buildings with the tag "Meth," said Pamela K. Beal, coordinator of the Graffiti Hurts Task Force of Buffalo and Erie County.

"He's a harmful 'tagger,' " said Beal, who also serves as coordinator of the University at Buffalo's Regional Community Policing Center. "We'll look at this case very closely and ask for something more than community service."

Osborne was charged with making graffiti, possession of graffiti instruments and trespassing after city police caught him with five cans of spray paint at Ferguson Electric on Ellicott Street downtown.

Arrested with Osborne was Christopher A. Fargo, 23, of Dewitt Street. Police charged Fargo with making graffiti and possession of graffiti instruments. He is suspected of spray painting "Zen" on properties belonging to others.

According to police, the two men were arrested after Osborne had climbed a pipe to draw on an exterior wall 10 feet above the ground.

" 'Meth,' in particular, has [been] tagged all over the city," said Justin Azzarella, executive director of Forever Elmwood. "We're excited to know someone is being prosecuted."

"It's not art. It's vandalism," said Carl Kowalkowski, manager of Positively Main Street, a gift and card shop. "Cool, huh? I think it affects the quality of life."

Forty minutes before Osborne and Fargo were arrested, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police arrested another pair on graffiti vandalism charges.

Police charged Samuel O. Shannon, 21, of Best Street and Deric D. Slaughter, 21, of S. Crossman Avenue with spray painting the letters "FAM" on a wall of the Ellicott Street bus terminal. The two had cans of red and black spray paint, police said.

Passengers alerted police to the vandalism.

"The costs [of vandalism] to businesses can be thousands of dollars," said Beal. "I don't think the taggers know how much they're hurting the small business owners in the city."

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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