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Scarborough man charged with vandalizing I-295 sound barrier in South Portland

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Scarborough man charged with vandalizing I-295 sound barrier in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — Police believe they have found the person responsible for painting graffiti on the Interstate 295 sound barrier last year.

Chief Edward Googins announced at a press conference April 4 that William O’Brien, 25, of Pine Point Road, Scarborough, was charged April 3 with criminal mischief for the vandalism, which took place in December. O'Brien's court date will be in May. 

Googins said the graffiti would be “a pretty expensive fix to paint over.” Lieutenant Frank Clark estimated Tuesday that the expenses would be more than $1,000, which would bump the charges up to a felony offense.

According to Officer David Stailing, who issued O'Brien a summons, O’Brien confessed to spray-painting the tag “BRO” in large, black, bubble letters across the sound barrier panels, and to crafting at least three other graffiti marks in South Portland bearing the same insignia.

Police executed a search warrant for O’Brien’s home after receiving a tip that provided information and his name. Stailing said they found several drawings with the distinctive bubble tag “BRO” in O'Brien's bedroom.

Police said O’Brien has cooperated with the investigation, although the criminal charge is not his first.

O'Brien was convicted in August 2012 on charges of criminal mischief and theft for breaking the windows of an apartment and car, and taking coins from inside. Prior to that incident, O'Brien was convicted twice in New York: once for making graffiti, and again for intent to damage property.

"Obviously this is not an isolated incident," Clark said Tuesday.

Googins credited the police team's success to a reward fund set up in January specifically for graffiti vandalism cases, which gave members of the public incentive to come forward with information. In February, that fund received a $5,000 donation.

Police will evaluate the sources who contributed to identifying O’Brien, and from there, Googins said, the group will “recommend how the funds should be dispersed.” He said he hopes the fund continues to exist after this case and encouraged members of the public to help with other vandalism cases in the city.

“It’d be nice if we could keep that fund sustained, it’d be even nicer if people didn’t write graffiti,” he said.

Googins said he appreciates artistic talent, but vandalism makes people feel unsafe.

“It’s a crime,” he said. “It’s not art.”

Googins said the hopes the graffiti cleanup will begin this month.

The wall, built to protect nearby neighbors from highway noise, has been a canvas for graffiti since construction began in late 2009.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.