Law enforcement agencies in northeast Iowa are trying to track down a graffiti artist who has spray painted similar racial slurs, hate messages and swastikas in three counties. The latest defacing with a racial tone happened sometime early Friday morning on Highway 218 at the northern edge of Cedar Falls. A welcome sign at the city limits is now covered with a tarp to hide a swastika and a racial slur. An employee at a nearby business, Kevin Claussen, says he’s surprised the vandal went to so much trouble.
“It’s kind of crazy climbing up on a street sign like that, especially right by a freeway,” Claussen said. The single incident in Cedar Falls is the only one in Black Hawk County so far. But sheriff’s departments in both Butler and Bremer (BREE-mur) Counties have investigated four or five similar incidents since last fall. Bremer County Detective Dave MacDonald says the messages certainly qualifiy as racist, but might not rise to the level of a hate crime.
“It’s not been directed at any one (individual or at any one) particular piece of property. It’s just been scattered around different areas,” MacDonald said. In Bremer County, the graffiti artist has put the swastikas and racial messages on bridges, road signs and on the side of an abandoned farm house.
Most of that vandalism has taken place is very isolated areas. But the vandal may be getting bolder by spray painting slurs along busy Highway 218 in Cedar Falls. Investigators say similarities in style and message lead them to believe they are looking for the same person in all three counties.
By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids