Vandals leave trail of graffiti on buildings

Police say the crime is rare in Tarpon Springs and do not think the two recent incidents are related. Among the scrawlings was a racial slur.

Published October 4, 2005

TARPON SPRINGS - "I'm just kidding," the message said in red-orange paint.

But Tarpon Springs police don't think it's funny.

Nor do city business owners who discovered the graffiti two weeks ago on seven buildings along E Tarpon Avenue and N Hibiscus Street. The graffiti included drawings of a blue alligator head and spray-painted stencils of black musical notes, gorillas, a crawling baby, a Nike shoe and a man's face.

Graffiti is rare in the town, Tarpon Springs police Capt. Ronnie H. Holt said. But vandals struck again this past weekend.

An anonymous caller at 8:32 a.m. Saturday led police to a racial slur painted in red on the 4700 block of Phoenix Avenue.

Police have few leads in either case, although they do not believe the two incidents are related, Holt said. Graffiti is difficult to investigate unless somebody witnessed it, he said.

In the first incident, a Tarpon Springs police officer spotted the graffiti in the downtown antiques district while on patrol Sept. 21, a police report shows. Several business owners on the block told police the graffiti appeared two days earlier, but nobody had filed a police report. Others hadn't noticed the graffiti, some of which was in a back alley or high up on side walls. Police do not believe the graffiti is gang-related, Holt said.

Vandals painted a black 3-foot-long insect high on a side wall of Vasile G. Faklis' Faklis Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics business. He said he had just spent $200 to $300 three months ago to cover up a vandal's painting of a black rat, but hadn't had a chance to paint over the latest graffiti.

"It's wrong," said Faklis, whose family also operates the Faklis Department Store & Shoe Repair in front of his orthotics business. "It's disrespectful. We put a lot of pride into our building, and it costs a lot of money."

In his 14 years as owner of Menzer's Antiques across the street, Paul Menzer never experienced graffiti until two weeks ago, he said. His landlord Friday painted over a serpent's head and the vandal's tag, which was written in black cursive above the front awning of his business.

By Monday, others had done the same. A block of dark-brown paint on the upper right wall of the Zone lounge covered what was a white serpent's head and the vandal's tag line.

Menzer said he was annoyed with the graffiti, especially only six months after his landlord had repainted the building.

"Hopefully, they'll get it out of their system and find a more creative way to express their talents," Menzer said.

Anyone with information on either incident is asked to call the city Police Department at (727) 938-2849.

--Yuxing Zheng can be reached at 727 445-4163 or at yzheng@sptimes.com