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Graffiti suspects held for tagging gallery building

Police believe they've nabbed two graffiti vandals who tagged a building owned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

A 17-year-old West Side resident and a male juvenile have been charged with making graffiti and possession of graffiti instruments.

The entrance of Clifton Hall, a building adjacent to the Elmwood Avenue cultural institution, was tagged at around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Michael Lawler, of Forest Avenue, and the minor were arrested a short time later after they were spotted a few blocks from the scene, Buffalo police said.

During the past month, Buffalo police have have arrested five people on graffiti vandalism charges.

Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards said the city is trying to send a clear message that taggers will be prosecuted. He said such vandalism "disturbs the fabric" of communities and damages the quality of life.

"This isn't something that is just fun. This is a crime," Richards told reporters at a news conference outside City Hall Thursday afternoon. "It's taken very seriously by our Police Department. It's taken seriously by our prosecutors. When arrested, you will suffer the consequences."

Misdemeanor charges tied to graffiti can carry up to one year in prison, but the penalties imposed are often less severe. In many instances, convicted vandals are required to perform community service -- including graffiti removal.

Mayor Byron W. Brown credited police for making the speedy arrests.

Northwest District Police Officers Steven Maslowski and Jason Sutter apprehended the suspects. The tags have already been removed, a strategy that Brown said is key to discouraging such acts.

"The quicker you clean it off, the better it is -- the more of a deterrent it is," Brown said.

Other recent graffiti arrests occurred in South Buffalo and in the Grant-Amherst neighborhood.

The latest arrests occurred in the same week that an anti-graffiti training workshop was held at Buffalo State College. The seminar attracted about 60 people, including law enforcement and neighborhood activists.