Man believed to be `Oricl' suspected in rash of graffiti


From Hampden to Canton to downtown Baltimore, the graffiti artist plied his trade for months, leaving his mark - "Oricl" - with a quick dash of spray paint.

But city police said yesterday that they arrested a suspect early Wednesday on a street in Hampden.

Later, police with a search warrant went through a home where the suspect was staying and recovered 48 cans of spray paint, ink markers, an unloaded Mossberg shotgun, and sketchbooks where the man apparently practiced his scrawl, police said.

Police said they arrested Kenneth D. Ellis, 25, of no fixed address, in the 3600 block of Keswick Ave. He was charged with 13 counts of malicious destruction of property. Each charge carries a possible three years in jail and a $2,500 fine.

City police were investigating to determine whether Ellis was suspected of painting graffiti in counties outside Baltimore.

"He wreaked havoc in Baltimore City," said Det. Eric Villareal, who works in the department's environmental crimes enforcement unit.

Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works, which worked with police in the investigation, said that it costs city taxpayers about $840,000 each year for graffiti removal. That figure does not include money spent by property owners, he said.

Graffiti artists can damage property in the amount of "tens of thousands of dollars in one night, if they're creative enough," Kocher said. He encouraged city residents to report graffiti artists if they see them in the act, and to remove or paint over graffiti so that it doesn't deface a neighborhood.

"You really can't condone this, because this is costing us a lot of money," Kocher said.

The rash of graffiti bearing the "Oricl" tag hit a number of homes in Wyman Park, according to Kathleen Talty, vice president of the neighborhood's community association.

"It really was very disturbing," said Talty, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1993. "One house hit was owned by a senior citizen, an older lady, who was trying to cover it up with paint."

She said the wave of graffiti in the neighborhood came after a fatal shooting on a residential street near Wyman Park. The victim, Michael Bryant, 22, lived in East Baltimore, and police did not know why he was in the area.

"The murder had been on the north end [of the neighborhood], the graffiti was on the south end," Talty said. "As a result, the community's become more public-safety conscious."

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