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Posted on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 10:38 a.m.

Graffiti charges: Two teens accused of vandalizing dozens of sites around Ann Arbor

By John Counts

This story has been corrected to say one of the suspects is 16 years old.

Police believe they have caught two teenagers responsible for painting SAES and Mole graffiti tags on dozens of buildings, overpasses, light poles and other locations around Ann Arbor.


An example of SAES graffiti left on a light pole on Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor.

John Counts |

Petitions for a combined 27 counts of destruction of property have been authorized for a 15-year-old boy and 16-year-old boy, both of Ann Arbor, said Detective Robin Larson. They made their first court appearances Friday at a preliminary inquiry, which is more or less the equivalent of an arraignment. Both were given future court dates for a hearing that will examine the incidents in more detail, Larson said.

The 15-year-old boy thought to be responsible for the SAES tags faces 16 counts of varying degrees of malicious destruction of property. Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the amount of estimated monetary damage caused. Larson said the case is still building and more charges could be forthcoming as the damage is tallied up. She did not immediately want to put a dollar amount on it.

The tagger's handiwork has been seen around Ann Arbor for months, especially downtown and on the west side.

The 15-year-old SAES suspect will return to court on May 6. In the meantime, Larson said she suspects the boy is continuing to vandalize buildings.

“I think he's tagging under a different moniker,” she added.

Police are investigating and more charges against the boy could be forthcoming.

The 16-year-old boy thought to be behind the "Mole" tags is a good friend of the SAES tagger, police said. Besides painting graffiti on property around town, they skateboard together, Larson said. The "Mole" tagging suspect has been charged with 11 varying counts of destruction of property and will return to court May 13.

Other boys from the same group of friends could also be charged in the coming weeks. Larson said she has a couple of other cases pending.

"It's a thrill (for them)," Larson said. "They find it exciting."

The detective also continues to investigate the graffiti painted at the Artrain site on North Main Street earlier this month. She said she has a few suspects, but added that the department is still seeking any tips from the public.


A SAES and Mole tag from William Street looking south down the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks.

Ryan Stanton |

“I’m hoping I can get some more information to find out who is responsible,” she said.

Six rail cars at the Artrain site along North Main Street were vandalized between 1:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on April 13 causing approximately $60,000 in damage. The vandals tagged the cars with "Clams," "Raw" and "Hash," Larson said.

Crime Stoppers is still offering a $1,000 reward for information regarding graffiti and vandalism at the Artrain site. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


no one

Mon, May 13, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

The thing that bothers me is that the author put up pictures of their worst work. I've seen their tags around town and they have talent.

Tom Joad

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

Seen that SAES moniker all over; I thought it meant Society of Automotive Engineers was in town

Ricardo Queso

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Self Addressed Envelope Stamped


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

At least Chu is finally gone.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

There is a ton of graffiti around the city these days, not just what is indicated in this article. The criminal justice system needs to send a strong message to current and future perps to discourage more property vandalism. It's destructive, and it's criminal activity. As long as these vandals can continue getting away with this destruction, it will continue.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.



Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

Hopefully the parents will be part of the criminal process.

John Counts

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

Court records show the parents of each teen appeared in court with them Friday.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Who wants to see SAES and Moles everywhere? No one. Zero talent or effort. Same for "Clams" "Raw" and "Hash." Lamest "graffiti artist/taggers" ever, whom ever they may be.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.


Tex Treeder

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Taggers:no. Vandals, yes. Let's call them what they are, malicious selfish little brats who need to clean up their messes and pay restitution.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6 p.m.

If it turns out that they are "responsible", they should have to clean it all up and then do community service. BTW, youths don't plead guilty, they "admit responsibility".


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

At least they aren't playing video games?


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:42 p.m.

It might be one thing if these guys were even semi-talented. If they were, perhaps one could argue they just need an outlet for their artistic impulses. But their stuff is pathetic; they really need to learn how to do something else. My suggestion? Learn how to clean graffiti off various types of surfaces.

Julie Baker

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

We'd like to remind readers that the teens have not been convicted of any crimes, so please refrain from making comments about sentencing or retaliation. We're now reviewing comments on this story before they appear on the site. Please email with any questions.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

"Larson said she suspects the boy is continuing to vandalize buildings." Either a tether or a stay in jail would correct that. (Isn't it our duty as a civil society to help those who cannot help themselves?)


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

Good work by the AAPS. However, these punks were arraigned, yet we don't have names or photos. No more slaps on the wrist. Let's see some real criminal charges here. NO PLEA DEALS!


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

As minors, this information would be withheld from the public. Doesn't mean they can't charge them properly, which they hopefully will!


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

Need an edit function on this forum.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

OOPS! That's good work, AAPD!


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

Need to read your article before posting. 4th para, or should be for.

Julie Baker

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

That typo has been fixed.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

Yes, stop calling this people taggers. They are criminals in my mind...even vandals is too soft. Sick of this graffiti--too much like larger cities.

no one

Mon, May 13, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

Have you seen their best work?


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

I disagree....tagger is a pejorative....PLEASE call them taggers. You can also call them TOYS, as that is another pejorative in the graffiti subculture.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Thanks to punks like this, I now have to show my driver's license whenever I buy a can of Rust-Oleum spray paint up at Home Depot!

Kyle Mattson

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

That's been in effect for a while PileD, back when I worked in manufacturing during my college days I would occasionally have to buy cases of spray paint and you wouldn't believe the shady looks I got and trouble it was to actually make the purchase (check my id, calls to my employer, etc etc).

Usual Suspect

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

It seems like there should be some opportunities for some trespassing charges as well. Climbing onto the roofs of buildings and painting on the walls of neighboring buildings should qualify, I would think.

Usual Suspect

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

I know who SAES is. I'm trying to think of which of his friends MOLE is.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

SAES has made a MESS...MESS...MESS of a good number of lovely brick buildings in our town. It is very costly to have these initials removed, and sometimes even after "removal," one can still see them.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

is it true then, that SAES is still out vandalizing property while awaiting a May 6 court appearance like Detective Larson believes?


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

"The tagger's handiwork has been seen around Ann Arbor or months, especially downtown and on the west side." More like embarrassing garbage wannabe graff artist junk. It's insulting to real graffiti to be associated with the vandalism these kids did.

John Counts

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

I am working on a follow up story that will talk a little bit more about what happened in court Friday and will give a breakdown of the charges.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

A lesson for the teenagers and their parents: Part of "honor thy father and mother" is not behaving like you were raised in a skunkhole. Were you?

David Cahill

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

Great work by the AAPD! I'm glad to see significant police resources are being put into solving these "qualify of life" offenses which can significantly degrade the environment here.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 7 p.m.

Ugh - the amount of time and energy being spent on this is nuts. If and the police weren't making such a big deal out it, none of this would have gone this far - it's all just a big challenge to the taggers and a waste of police resources.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

I think he's dead serious and I agree. Who wants to look at that stuff? It isn't even interesting.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not.

Hi McDonnough

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

It's great that the AAPD is nabbing some of these vandals given their staffing levels these days. Now the courts need to take the next step and put something in place with teeth. The parents of these kids should be held financially responsible. That might encourage them keep tabs on their teenage kids when the sun goes down.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

Community service is not sufficient. Real punishment. As another poster mentioned, volunteer organizations don't want to babysit those who are unmotivated to work. Busting rocks is real work. Digging a hole and filling it in, again and again, is real work.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

@Moewan: Yes, that is exactly the scene I was thinking about.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5 p.m.

What's your dirt doing in the bosses hole, Cool Hand Luke.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Only if you make it a new hole each time, once that dirt is dug, it's too easy to dig again. New hole, every time, for days on end.

Joe Hood

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Ah, skateboarding IS a crime. ;)


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. It may not deter every idiot kid who wants to damage property with spray paint, but maybe if they see that their peers are getting harsh sentences, it will convince some of them to find other amusements. Maybe.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

What makes them think it is OK to deface other people's property?


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

Maybe coming in third in the Ann Arbor Library graffiti contest?

harry b

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5 p.m.

I am pretty sure they knew it wasn't OK or they would have done it out in public in the day light.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

I'm not sure why the police should even waste their time catching these guys? The judges are just letting them go and probably giving them a ride to Home Depot to get more paint. And stop calling them "taggers" what they are is vandals.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

In a previous case the vandal was sentenced to nearly $20K in restitution. I am hoping these little darlings are also held financially responsible for their "art".


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

This is how our juvenile systems works... and for a good reason. These crimes are expensive and a nuisance but they aren't violent. And I hardly think anyone's getting a ride to Home Depot when they can buy spray paint locally and contribute to our local economy.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

"The 15-year-old SAES suspect will return to court on May 6. In the meantime, Larson said she suspects the boy is continuing to vandalize buildings. " I think that pretty much sums it up. Slap on the hand since they are minors. What are the parents doing in the meantime?

harry b

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

How do you know? They haven't even been brought to trial? Do you have examples of when this happen and the judge let them go.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

Sounds like community service until debt owed is paid is in order... get yer toothbrushes boys, time to get to work.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

Here, Here! Let them spend the summer erasing all the tags in Ann Arbor, under the watchful eye of one of their parents, I doubt it will happen again if they know they will end up spending months in community service, say 40 hours per vandalized structure?