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"The county is able to aggregate graffiti cases if there is eyewitness testimony for each

incident, but is not able to do so based solely upon testimony from Sgt. Olson that a tag name is

used exclusively by one individual. This situation arose during a 2005 case. In the case, an

individual was caught tagging a building in Minneapolis. It would have been a relatively simple

case, as the individual was caught in the act, except the property owner chose not to provide a

damage estimate. Without a damage estimate, Taylor was unable to use that tagging incident as

the basis for a felony charge. Thus, Sgt. Olson was brought in as an “expert” to testify that this

incident demonstrated that the individual was responsible for a number of other graffiti incidents

in town and could be charged with a felony based upon those damage estimates. A “Frye

hearing” was held to determine if there was a scientific basis for Sgt. Olson’s claim. The judge

found that there was not, and was further convinced by the testimony of a well-respected

handwriting expert, Karen Runyon, who argued that it was not possible to use handwriting

analysis to determine the identity of a graffitist. The case, besides being the only instance in

which Taylor was unable to get a conviction, was a huge blow to law enforcement and

prosecution efforts as it means that it is only possible to bring charges against an individual for

graffiti they are caught doing. This in turn means that most restitution awards will be between

$800-$1,500, far less than the tens of thousands of dollars of damage done by some graffitists."

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