3 in Newport charged with fake ‘gang’ tagging

Posted Feb. 12, 2010, at 10:53 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — The notion that there might be gang activity here was laid to rest this week when two juveniles and a 19-year-old Newport man were charged in connection with vandalism around town.

Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said Officer Amanda Smith has been investigating the vandalism, which consisted of spray-painted or drawn symbols on buildings, vehicles and signs, since early last summer.

He estimated that the vandalism caused $4,000 in damage. The symbols were similar to those used by gangs in some cities, Macdaid said.

“We weren’t sure if we had a problem here or not,” Macdaid said. “We were getting tagging all over town. There’s at least 30 different places they’ve hit in the past eight or nine months.”

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Photographs of the graffiti were studied by an expert on gang symbols last summer. The expert concluded that the symbols were likely painted by local kids who were imitating gang activity, but not part of any gang.

Macdaid said Andrew McLaughlin, 19, of Newport was charged this week with 11 counts of graffiti and one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief. Two male juveniles face criminal mischief charges, though Macdaid said their cases “are still being worked on.”

Macdaid declined to say what led police to these three people because the case is ongoing. He said some people have expressed concern about whether the symbols indicated gang activity, though most people saw them as simply an ugly nuisance.

“They certainly did make a mess of the town, and we’re happy to have stopped them,” Macdaid said.

McLaughlin faces a March 24 court date, said Macdaid, who credited Smith for a thorough investigation.

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