On the morning of March 8, Richard Bauder called the police to his Breckenridge storage facility. One of his employees had visited the site the day before and found the west wall of the building covered in spray paint.
It was the start of a wave of graffiti vandalism that has spread across Summit County, now resulting in so much damage it rises to the level of a felony case. Authorities confirmed Monday they believe the string of “taggings” are connected and may be the work of the same person or people.
“The tagging is very similar in nature, so we were able to tie in the graphics,” Breckenridge police chief Shannon Haynes said. “Our guys put all the information together on what we had seen in Breck, and then went around to the other agencies and showed them what we had.”
There have been at least 30 reported vandalism cases in Breckenridge alone, and related incidents in Silverthorne and Dillon as well. Officers from all three departments have joined forces on the investigation.
Authorities say they have identified a person or people of interest, but declined to go into further detail with the investigation ongoing.
The same suspects are believed to have stolen spray paint from at least one local home improvement retailer, according to a report the Silverthorne Police Department submitted to town leaders last week.
The graffiti ranged in size and scale from large spray paintings left on the interior of an underpass below Park Avenue to small marks discovered on electrical boxes.
“All of that adds up and creates an atmosphere that we don’t want in our community,” Haynes said.
Last month, Breckenridge Police officer Matt McNairy organized a volunteer clean-up effort coinciding with the town’s cleanup day to help remove a number of taggings.
Because the group was not paid for the work, a number of their materials were donated and other clean-up efforts have been undertaken by private entities, authorities say they can’t estimate the total cost of the vandalism, but it is at least in the thousands of dollars.
McNairy is also leading a community policing effort, in conjunction with the Breckenridge public works department, Public Arts Commission, Xcel Energy, Vail Resorts and others to begin identifying suspects and make potential targets less attractive to vandals.
Graffiti tends to be a seasonal problem in Summit County, Silverthorne Police chief Mark Hanschmidt said.
“It goes in cycles. When it starts warming up we’ll get these taggers,” he said. “It’s happening in places that are not obvious to the general public.”
Those who see anything suspicious, have information related to the case or notice new graffiti are asked to call the Summit County dispatch non-emergency line at (970) 668-8600.