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Nov 18, 2013 11:32 PM by Rebecca Taylor

Tagger turned muralist explains mindset of graffiti taggers

TUCSON - A midtown neighborhood has been the target of taggers in recent days. Fences, bus stops and businesses are covered in graffiti.

About 20-30 tags can be seen along Tucson Blvd. between Grant and Speedway. Also, three businesses were hit pretty hard on Grant Road just East of Tucson Blvd.

The owner of Plumbing Supplier Inc. says his property has been tagged three times this year. Not even the installation of new outside lighting seems to be a deterrent.

Ryan Ashton with Plumbing Suppliers Inc. says, "I come in from the East side of the building which they hit. That really got me because we just painted this building about nine months ago the whole building from top to bottom, and then I came around the corner and they hit our fence right here."

Under Arizona law if you're caught tagging it's a crime which ranges from a misdemeanor to a class 4-felony, punishable by fines and up to three years in prison.

A Tucson man is a convicted tagger turned muralist now paid for his aerosol art. He gave us some insight into the mind of a tagger, including how to prevent your property from becoming a canvas of unwanted graffiti.

Tucson Police say this recent rash of graffiti is definitely the work of taggers, not a gang. Large bubble letters are called 'bombs' by taggers. Some are even taking to social media posting their tags for the world to see.

Germaine Pesquiera is an aerosol artist. He was a tagger for 20 years, eventually arrested in 1994.

"Overall their goal is to be recognized, whether it's on a wall in the community or in their room," says Pesquiera, "They want that sensation of a high, to see if they'll get caught or not."

On Instagram a search for #TucsonGraffiti pulls up hundreds of local taggers seeking a global audience.

"They want to be recognized around the world, be known locally, publicly and nationally," says Pesquiera.

But be careful posts are also being viewed by law enforcement.

Pink and blue signatures line Tucson Blvd. near Grant.
The only business seemingly not hit is Dante's Fire: cocktails and cuisine. "They don't touch it, have not had an issue with this at all," says owner Jon Tuck of a mural on his restaurant's fence.

It covers spray paint left by taggers past.

"One of the side effects of doing a mural, because I love the art work, is that other taggers, out of respect, they won't tag something that's been decorated this way." says Tuck.

Pesquiera is the artist behind Tuck's mural and others around town.

"The best way to cope with it, is to understand it," says Pesquiera a tagger turned commissioned street artist.

For businesses, removing unwanted spray paint is costly. If you have information about who's behind it call Tucson Police or 88-Crime.

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