Graffiti writers vs. police: a game of cat and mouse

Part 3 of Miami Herald’s Graffiti feature:

Gang unit detectives and graffiti writers are constantly trying to outsmart each other, so secrecy and paranoia are the norm when it comes to the ways of graffiti.

Writers ride a fine line between making their tags famous and maintaining anonymity. Detectives must link the vandal to the tag.

”It has nothing to do with poverty anymore. It doesn’t matter what gender, ethnicity, age or socioeconomic status,” said Miami Gang Unit Detective Andres Valdes. “We have arrested kids from Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove.”

To navigate Miami’s world of graffiti, detectives and writers get in the habit of recognizing hundreds of short catchy names constantly appearing on property. Valdes sometimes rides the metro in civilian clothes to look for trends and patterns.

”You go around looking for tags that you can recognize,” said Hialeah Gang Unit Detective Israel Perez. “When they are not in your area, you share that information with other departments.”

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