Avery Prince, a 17-year-old from Barker Avenue, was arrested on Tuesday, June 3, for allegedly defacing the 9/11 Memorial mural located at Olinville Avenue and Thwaits Place with a tag that is common throughout the neighborhood he calls home.
“This is another case of someone who does graffiti in their own neighborhood,” said 49th Precinct Community Affairs Police Officer Victor DiPierro. “To make matters worse, not only did he not care about his own community, but he showed no respect to the hero this mural honored.”
The mural, created by Mott Haven artist Eddie Gonzalez, paid homage to the late Peter Bielfeld, a firefighter who, on September 11, 2001, while on medical leave, borrowed gear from his south Bronx stationhouse and headed down to the World Trade Center to help save lives one final time.
Ironically, Bielfeld lived in the same community as Prince while working for Company 42 on Prospect Avenue, making Prince’s crime against his former neighbor that much more of a tragedy.
Residents and local law enforcement were happy to see the case wrapped up so quickly.
“I credit the Citywide Task Force in helping us in this matter,” said 49th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kevin Collins.
The NYPD’s taskforce, by debriefing past graffiti arrest perpetrators, was able to secure a tip leading to the arrest.
Acting on these tips, on June 3, at 7:30 a.m., police officers Robert Colon, Richard Thybulle, and Steven Richardson, went to question the individual believed to be SIPS at his 2512 Barker Avenue home, located a few blocks from the defaced mural.
After discussing the issue with Prince and his father, the vandal gave a full admission of guilt, leading to the arrest.
Upon being brought back to the precinct, a full written confession, along with a drawing of his tag, was presented by Prince to the police, along with an expression of remorse.
“That is the last time I will ever do graffiti,” Prince said at the stationhouse, according to police.
Prince, who was charged with making graffiti, possession of graffiti-making instruments and criminal mischief, said that he wanted to turn himself in after seeing the media coverage his act of vandalism received, but was too afraid to take that brave step, DiPierro said.
DiPierro was thrilled the culprit was apprehended and reacted to the authorities the way he did, but “he should have realized it was wrong to do what he did in the first place.”
The police officer, who spearheads the precinct’s graffiti removal/prevention program, added that Prince volunteered to help Gonzalez refurbish the mural.
However, Gonzalez declined to accept the help, stating that he was afraid of how the community would react to seeing the vandal. Gonzalez plans to repaint the mural thanks to money he received from the 49th Precinct and Bielfeld’s firehouse.
In the meantime, DiPierro is content with Prince’s apologies, believing that the vandal will remain on the straight and narrow, much like the previous 9/11 mural vandal, SNEZ, has done since being arrested for his actions in May 2006.
“A 9/11 mural was the last thing either has or will graffiti again,” DiPierro said. “I truly believe that.”
DiPierro talked with Prince about his actions and discovered that the Barker Avenue youth would like to one day be an architect. “I thought that was great and I encouraged him to follow his dreams,” said the officer.