Does This Giraffe Look Guilty? Net Tightens Around Renowned S.F. Graffiti Artist 'Girafa'

Categories: Crime, Local News
Late last month, San Jose cops made an announcement that reverberated like a shock wave through the ranks of local graffiti fans. Police in the South Bay metropolis believed they had unmasked the prominent artist-vandal known as "Girafa," a graffiti "writer" -- as such auteurs prefer to be called -- who has left an opus of charming giraffes on innumerable stretches of concrete walls and aluminum siding around the Bay Area.

Girafa siniestra?
Never to be outdone by their brothers in blue to the south, the San Francisco Police Department this week made its own announcement: It is, well, sort of close to, you know, catching the same guy. In a press release curiously devoid of news content (hook: Cops are "continuing to investigate a prolific graffiti vandal"), the SFPD made a public request that anyone whose property had been damaged by Girafa step forward. Like the San Jose press release, the SFPD's statement contained mugshot-style images of a hapless cartoon giraffe, in whose eyes you can see something like fear.

SFPD spokesman Officer Samson Chan told us that the same man arrested in San Jose -- Steven Free, a resident of the Outer Richmond -- is a suspect in the investigation, and that the case would likely involve at least one felony charge. The Examiner reported that Caltrans officials are already pressing charges against Free for vandalizing pillars below Interstate 280.

In this week's issue of SF Weekly, we reported that San Francisco far outspends other cities on its anti-graffiti program, despite what even police acknowledge is a dwindling amount of graffiti -- and widespread apathy among potential jurors about graffiti convictions. (Paul Henderson, chief of administration in the district attorney's office, said one prosecutor went through three pools of jurors earlier this year before finding a group willing to view graffiti as a crime in the first place.)

News of the Girafa investigation shows that the city's anti-graffiti campaign is alive and well. What say you, Snitch readers? Should graffiti writers be nailed to the wall? Or is the cover-up worse than the crime?

Photos   |   Courtesy San Francisco Police Department

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