Share This Page

Pittsburgh police's graffiti squad to be disbanded

| Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 12:05 a.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Graffiti mars a building in Bloomfield on Monday, April 15, 2013. Pittsburgh police recently disbanded its grafitti squad — a move that some city leaders and community members are calling a mistake.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Graffiti mars a wall in Bloomfield on Monday, April 15, 2013. Pittsburgh police recently disbanded its grafitti squad — a move that some city leaders and community members are calling a mistake.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Vandals have trashed a garbage can in Bloomfield with their scrawls. Pittsburgh police recently disbanded its grafitti squad — a move that some city leaders and community members are calling a mistake.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Graffiti mars a wall at Sassafras Street and Liberty Avenue on Monday, April 15, 2013. Pittsburgh police recently disbanded its grafitti squad — a move that some city leaders and community members are calling a mistake.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Graffiti mars a wall on the North Side on Monday, April 15, 2013. Pittsburgh police recently disbanded its grafitti squad — a move that some city leaders and community members are calling a mistake.

Pittsburgh police acting Chief Regina McDonald plans to disband the department's graffiti squad this month.

The unit's three detectives will be transferred to the Hill District and Highland Park stations beginning April 29, according to a notice from McDonald dated Friday.

She did not respond to messages seeking comment. City leaders and community members called the decision a mistake.

“It will be needed again in the future, and it will just have to be re-formed,” said Councilman Bill Peduto, a candidate for mayor. “It would be best to just keep it rather than having to re-establish it. It will end up costing us more money to try to bring it back.”

City Public Safety Director Michael Huss and a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl did not return messages.

Detective Frank Rende, a member of the squad, will remain detailed to the Warrant Office. McDonald moved him there while the Office of Municipal Investigations reviews his arrest of a St. Patrick's Day reveler in the South Side that was captured on video.

The graffiti squad began in 2006 and made a number of high-profile arrests, including members of Pittsburgh's Most Wanted Graffiti Vandals Ian de Beer and Daniel J. Montano. Montano was sentenced in 2008 to 2½ to five years in prison and ordered to pay $232,582, and de Beer was sentenced in 2010 to one to three years in prison and ordered to pay more than $45,000 in restitution..

According to the police department's annual report, the graffiti squad made 10 arrests and secured $11,899 in restitution in 2011. Statistics from 2012 were not available.

“From working with them, not only was their work successful, but their work was appreciated in the neighborhoods,” Peduto said.

The task force helped community organizations start anti-graffiti groups, said Steve Root, a member of the South Side Community Council's Graffiti Watch, which formed in 2007.

“In my opinion, what they've done is invaluable,” Root said. “I think that's helped with the quality of life in Pittsburgh, or at least in the South Side. … I'm really upset about this. I think it's a big mistake.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.