By Zach Patberg
Anthony Larosa, 20, of Fresh Meadows, was arrested on charges of defacing a fence outside a residence on the Horace Harding Expressway in December, police said. The charge, a felony since the damages exceeded $250, carries a possible sentence of more than a year in prison.Larosa, with six prior arrests – five of which were for graffiti – was one of the city's most wanted taggers, police said. His signature, “PINZ” – though primarily concentrated in northern Queens – has appeared branded on homes, commercial buildings, mailboxes and lampposts throughout several boroughs for years, said Lt. Steve Mona, commander of the force's graffiti unit.In fact, the NYPD's Citywide Vandal Task Force has placed the alleged vandal on its “Worst of the Worst” list, Mona said.His arrest last Thursday followed a more than three-month investigation by police, who eventually matched photographs of Larosa's recent tags with ones taken prior to his last arrest in June, Mona said.Once the connection was drawn, Mona said police then came across the still-open complaint filed Dec. 25 by the owner of the tagged fence, which Larosa later admitted he had defaced.The second accused tagger, Miguel Camacho was arrested at his Rego Park home two days before Larosa and charged with six acts of criminal mischief around Forest Hills and Corona. Police said the 29-year-old showed pride for his work when they presented him with more than 100 photographs of structures marked with his tag, “VAMP.” “He asked since he wasn't doing it anymore if he could keep a picture as a souvenir,” said Lt. Thomas Conforti, who coordinated the six-month investigation for the 112th Precinct. “We said no.”Conforti said Camacho tended to target establishments against which he held grudges. When asked why he tagged a pizzeria on 108th Street, Camacho said “because I didn't like the food there,” the lieutenant said.Both arrests signaled a “major push” by police to dampen a prevailing graffiti problem in the city, said Mona, who cited a 28 percent rise in arrests within his unit alone.”We've really stepped things up,” he said, “and it's been working.” Borough residents and civic leaders are doing their part as well. Pat Dolan, vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, said she was in the process of securing a grant to clean up graffiti along Main Street in Kew Garden Hills. And even though Larosa, the suspected tagger, was from Fresh Meadows, Bob Harris of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association said graffiti was not a big problem in the area, thanks to community action. He said he and other residents go out periodically along Union Turnpike or 188th Street and paint over any tags they might see.”There's very little of it around now because vandals realize that it'll be covered up almost immediately,” he said. Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.