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Reward offered for Duluth graffiti arrest

Faced with a growing graffiti problem, the Duluth Police Department and the Greater Downtown Council are offering up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

Faced with a growing graffiti problem, the Duluth Police Department and the Greater Downtown Council are offering up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

Graffiti is a problem that ebbs and flows, Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken said.

"Last year was real bad, and now again this year it's at a height and we're seeing a lot of it again," he said. "It's on street signs and it's on buildings. A lot of it appeared in the tunnels on I-35 this past week."

The graffiti has appeared in several neighborhoods, including West Duluth, Lincoln Park/West End, downtown, and in the Central and East Hillside neighborhoods.

"We suspect there is a core group that is involved," Tusken said. "These folks are becoming more and more bold with their acts. To climb up on a catwalk on I-35 and paint a sign where a state trooper or one of our squads could have come along is pretty bold. They want their work to be seen."

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Tusken said graffiti is a difficult crime to solve, because it often takes place late at night or early in the morning when few people are awake and about.

"We hope the reward will solicit some information we wouldn't otherwise get," he said.

A tip led to the arrest of a man responsible for a lot of graffiti in Pine County four years ago, said John Bray, the regional Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman.

"The guy had to make a rather substantial restitution -- many thousands of dollars -- for all the stuff that was done in Pine County," Bray said. "If we are able to catch them and get them charged, we go after them to the full extent of the law for restitution."

MnDOT tries to paint over or remove graffiti as quickly as possible to discourage people from painting more graffiti. Cleanup costs can be expensive, Bray said. To rid the I-35 tunnels of graffiti, workers may have replace tiles. In addition to the monetary cost, cleaning graffiti along roads and highways puts workers at risk, Bray said.

"There's no sense to it," Bray said of graffiti. "All it does is create blight for our whole community. One of the signs of a community in decline is the amount of graffiti you see."

Anyone with information on graffiti crimes in Duluth should call 730-5020. Callers may remain anonymous.

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