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Hartford Man Charged For Painting Troubling Graffiti


July 11, 2013

HARTFORD Days after city officials said they were contemplating limits on graffiti and murals at a city skate park atop I-84 in downtown Hartford, police arrested a city man for graffiti they say crossed a line.

A person working in the Stilts Building at 20 Church St. called police Tuesday evening after spotting a man painting a bloody guillotine, said Lt. Brian Foley, a police spokesman. Officers found Matthew McLaughlin, 28, of Sargeant Street, painting the guillotine and the phrase "Devitalize Hartford," Foley said.

The officers also found a sketch of what McLaughlin was planning to paint, which showed that he planned to paint the names of several city officials and organizations, including the police department and some political organizations, beneath the guillotine. Police called the work "troubling."

Although police and some corporate neighbors have expressed concern about some of what happens at the graffiti-covered skate park known as Heaven, there's been little interference. Foley said that what officers found McLaughlin doing crossed a line, though.

"A bloody guillotine with people's names under it is certainly not something we're going to tolerate," Foley said.

McLaughlin was charged with breach of peace and criminal mischief and released early Wednesday on a written promise to appear in court.

City officials are considering a policy that would limit graffiti at the park to two walls. The restrictions would coincide with a $163,000 improvement project for the park, which used to be called New Ross, County Wexford Park in honor of Hartford's sister town in Ireland. It is the only city-sanctioned public place where people can spray paint graffiti.

Mark Tamaccio, an architect in the city's public works department, said he expect the new policy to limit graffiti and murals. The draft policy calls for a city ordinance to be written with "clear direction of allowable and prohibited graffiti practices, with solid enforcement guidelines and penalties."

The city is seeking a balance between artistic expression and consideration for nearby businesses, Tamaccio said. He called the park's triangular area at the corners of Main, Trumbull and Morgan streets "an important piece of real estate" a gateway into downtown.

Without any signs indicating what is allowed or what is not, park advocates and city officials have conceded that Heaven has turned into an aerosol paint free-for-all. Police officers don't know what they can enforce, Tamaccio said, "and businesses don't know what to expect."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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