INDEPENDENCE -- Authorities recently arrested seven juveniles believed to be responsible for much of the graffiti that has marked up the city since January.
The suspects, all males from Independence and ranging in age from 14 to 17, are collectively charged with 69 counts of misdemeanor vandalism.
Officers arrested the teens within the last two weeks, including one on Monday. Their cases have been referred to the Polk County Juvenile Department, Police Chief Vern Wells said.
Investigators are trying to obtain repair costs so that restitution can be requested through the court system. Estimates so far exceed $3,000, though many victims haven't yet provided damage amounts, Wells said.
"They tagged bridges, pumphouses, train cars, fences," he said, "virtually anything that was a fixed object."
Over the past 30 months, the reported graffiti incidents in Independence have soared.
There were 46 reported incidents of graffiti in Independence in 2006, 103 last year and 169 to date in 2008. Much of it is gang-related.
Wells said the seven arrested teens weren't in a gang, but described themselves as a local breakdancing group.
They said "they were trying to advertise their group," Wells said. "They said they were just doing art and that they had the right to do this stuff ... one said he didn't think it was a crime."
Community members who discover or have had property damaged by graffiti are encouraged to contact the Independence Police Department at 503-838-1214.