San Jose Cops Use Social Media to Capture Prolific Graffiti Artist

Friday, April 15, 2011 , , , 0 Comments

A long time ago, when I was just a little San Franciscan, there was a graffiti artist about town who used the tag DAVe, presumably because that was his name. Dave would leave stickers all over Muni buses and newspaper boxes with bizarre faces and his name colored in, not to mention huge posters glued up on the abandoned storefronts left when dot com imploded.

One night, wandering the Mission way past my bedtime, I actually caught him in the act and excitedly asked him to sign my sketchbook because, well, he was a famous San Francisco artist. And even though he littered the town with stickers and posters, which could be considered graffiti and a blight on the city by some, he's also participated in legit art projects such as Hearts in San Francisco. Meaning he is an artist, just as he was then when I busted him slapping a sticker on a Muni shelter over a decade ago.

Girafa, however? Apparently not art, according to the San Jose authorities.

SJ Mercury News:

A 32-year-old man who spray-painted cartoon giraffes all over San Jose and was considered one of the most prolific graffiti artists in the Bay Area will pay the city and local property owners $38,000, a judge has ruled.

San Francisco resident Steven Free -- known on the street as "Girafa" -- will also serve three years' probation after pleading guilty to two felony counts of vandalism and a pair of misdemeanor vandalism charges, San Jose police said Thursday.


Two officers in the San Jose police graffiti unit were able to hunt down Free using software that tracks tagging patterns. Later, they found thousands of pictures of Girafa tags on several of his social network sites. He was also suspected of tagging in San Francisco and the East Bay.

Police said the capture was especially significant because they subscribe heavily to the "broken windows" crime theory.

Did you all catch that? He tweeted about his crime, or plastered it all over Facebook. Funny how human beings put fame over reason sometimes, don't you think? But at what point do we accept street artists as real artists?

I miss DAVe.

How's that broken window theory working out for everyone?

Jr Deputy Accountant

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.