PORTSMOUTH — In the midst of a recent spate of graffiti, police are looking for a couple filmed by video surveillance marking a parking vestibule with graffiti, said police Lt. Timothy "Josh" McCain.
The video surveillance images were taken June 27 in the parking lot across Bow Street from the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, he said. A man can be seen on the video committing the vandalism, while a woman with him acted as lookout and looked at her phone, McCain said.
Police are seeking tips from anyone who can identify either one of the people and images in police custody capture the crime from three angles, he said.
"That's one incident," McCain said. "We're not saying they're responsible for all the graffiti and we don't think they are."
The police lieutenant said the man left a "very distinctive" mark, or tag, and police are working to compare that with other graffiti around the city. He said police are not releasing the mark at this time while the case is being investigated.
The man is described as having short dark hair, was wearing shorts and carrying a satchel. The female was wearing a very distinct sweatshirt, police said.
Recent graffiti around the city has included marked lanterns near the African Burial Ground Memorial, in one instance with the message, “I am everywhere.” The landmark Robert Wyland “whaling wall” mural was marred on a corner by black and white painted symbols, with no obvious meaning. A mural of a man reading a newspaper next to a girl, painted on a wall next to Portsmouth Provisions during the 2011 Street aka Museum project, was defaced by the words, “Kev Sucks.”
A second-story wall on the former Seacoast Variety store was covered in yellow spray-painted symbols and letters, one portion covering a window.
McCain said a runner in an Independence Day road race called police at 8:22 a.m. to report seeing a man with a bandana over his face actively spray painting a light post at Fleet and State streets. He said officers responded quickly, questioned a person of interest, who was not caught in the act, and are pursuing that, along with other leads and evidence.
In late June, illicit painting was left on a bench at the African Burial Ground Memorial, stone trim at the new Provident Bank under construction and covering a side of the city bathhouse on Four Tree Island. That’s in addition to graffiti on utility boxes, doors and walls throughout the city.
On Wednesday morning, a worker was power washing the side of the Provident Bank which hasn't even opened yet.
McCain last month warned of legal consequences for anyone caught “tagging” someone’s property without permission from the property owner. Depending on the cost to have the graffiti removed, it could be either a misdemeanor or a felony, he explained. It’s not uncommon for property owners to have to hire someone with professional-cleaning equipment to remove the paint and the cost in those cases could exceed the $1,500 threshold for prosecuting the crimes as felonies. The crimes are prosecuted with charges of criminal mischief, he said.
McCain said it’s up to a judge to decide how perpetrators are punished, but it’s usually with a criminal record, a fine and restitution to the property owner. The restitution comes long after the crimes are committed because of the time it takes for the criminal justice system to work, he said.
Anyone with information about the couple in the video is urged to call Officer Andrew Bridges at (603) 610-7531.
Anonymous tips can e left with Seacoast Crime Stoppers by phone at (603) 431-1199, online at seacoastcrimestoppers.com and through the new “P3” phone app available as a free download. Rewards of up to $1,000 may be paid for help solving cases if the information leads to an arrest or indictment.