Graffiti Vandalism Spree Provokes Quick Arrests

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Payson got a dose of big city vandalism — and swift, small-town justice last week.

A dozen business owners arrived at work on Thursday morning, Feb. 17, to discover that taggers had overnight scrawled crude graffiti on several vehicles and buildings —mostly along an alley fronting the highway — and numerous concrete and construction trucks.

Police arrived to take 12 reports of damage and put the cost of repainting and repairs at more than $12,000.

So Sergeant Joni Varga took up the investigation, with the help of patrol officers Brandon Buckner, Josh Slaughter and Matt Zimmerman.

Varga was recently recognized by the Gila County Attorney’s Office for investigating the activities of a con man who defrauded numerous businesses in Payson and for her crisp, concise testimony at trial.

Well, she seems to be on a roll.

Varga and the patrol officers interviewed people in the area, seeking clues to the identities of the taggers.

“The officers developed several leads in the case,” according to a department press release issued on Monday.

On Thursday night — less than 24 hours after the graffiti spree — the team arrested two Payson 18-year-olds for the vandalism — Martin Alpha Rose and Raheem Lajuan Royal.

The two teenagers reportedly confessed to the vandalism during interviews with the police. Officers then booked the pair into Gila County Jail on one count each of felony aggravated criminal damage, felony criminal trespass and misdemeanor criminal damage.

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