PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A Lawrenceville man is facing charges for allegedly spray painting dozens of properties around the city.

The letters “CHU” are prominent in the graffiti on a building located in the 2700-block of Penn Avenue in the Strip District.

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They are also frequently seen in Lawrenceville, in the area of Butler Street. It’s tagged on buildings, walls and bus shelters.

Those locations are listed as evidence against 30-year-old Jerome Charles who was arrested Thursday and charged with more than $46,000 worth of graffiti vandalism over five years.

Last month, a Carnegie Mellon University student, using the tag “Gems,” was arrested; and earlier this month, a manhunt began for a downtown graffiti tagger.

“Typically, spring and summer time we see surges in graffiti activity,” says Pittsburgh Police Detective Alphonso Sloan. “Those spurts where you see one person does an entire neighborhood, there’s really no rhyme or reason. They woke up that day and decided to paint the entire neighborhood. We don’t know why.

“Some of them are artists, but they make up a very small population as far as taggers go. Most of them are just vandals that scribble a name on different locations,” Detective Sloan said. “There are some artists and we do notice that a lot of the taggers we arrest have art backgrounds or art-related photographers, graphic designers. A lot of them are art-related, but they just choose to do crime instead.”

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One of the more famous Pittsburgh taggers in the late-1990s was known as “Mook,” who was daring enough to tag the superstructure of the 10th Street Bridge, until his arrest in 2003.

“If they tag consistently like our last arrest, he tagged for over five years, eventually word is going to get out,” said Pittsburgh Police Detective Braden Seese. “The community complains, so we’ll get community tips on who this individual is to point us in the right direction to what they’re doing. So it’s just a matter of time. They slip up and we catch them.”

But police say the way to help stop graffiti is to call 911 and help the task force follow a paper trail.

“If you see graffiti on your building, call 911,” said Seese. “Because a lot of these cases, the two arrests we just had, the “Gems” and “CHU,” myself and Alphonso are the ones going out and we’re finding all these tags because they’re going unreported. So if reports can get generated and get to our office, then we can get to it a lot faster and be resolved quicker.”

There’s a financial burden for the defendant. It’s $300 for the first square foot, and $50 for every square foot after that.

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