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Major Vandalism Incident Results In Felony Charges

Saguaro National Park

National Park News

Pursuant to a joint investigation between the National Park Service and Tucson Police Department, a juvenile resident of Tucson was arrested on July 29th and charged with two felony counts of vandalism. These charges stem from damage that occurred in the park on May 11th and at numerous other locations throughout Tucson (about 140 instances overall).

Rangers and investigators and officers from the Service’s Investigative Services Branch, the Tucson Police Department, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission worked together over the course of two months to identify, locate, and ultimately arrest the defendant.  Tip line information from the local community also played an important role in this case.

The park received reports of extensive vandalism along the Douglas Spring Trail on May 12th.  Over 40 different objects were tagged with black spray paint, including more than 11 saguaro cacti.  The incident received significant media interest, such as this June 4th article in the New York Times.

In June, the initial cleanup began, with Southwest Conservation Corps donating a crew to assist with the non-cactus objects (the June 14th edition of InsideNPS carried a report on this cleanup effort). Utilizing a product called “elephant snot,” the crew was able to remove the paint from boulders, cliff faces, water bars and trail signs. Park staff continue to be challenged with the task of removing the graffiti from the saguaros, many of which are well over 100 years old. 

“We are attempting to find a solution to clean the cactus that doesn’t further damage them,” said Paul Austin, the park’s chief ranger. Products initially tested to clean the saguaro cacti were at first promising, but NPS biologists who have been monitoring the results now plan to test other products they hope will prove as effective with less potential to damage the fragile cacti.

“This has been a cooperative effort from the beginning,” said Austin, “and we would like to thank all the agencies and community members who assisted with this investigation.” 

The two felony charges are being brought through the Pima County Juvenile Court system.


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