$60K bond for accused graffiti vandal

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Lilburn teen is paying a high price for allegedly spray painting commercial businesses along U.S. Highway 29.

Bond has been set at $60,000 for Francisco Javier Cruz, who faces three counts of second-degree criminal damage to property. Authorities say the high-dollar bond sends a message that the city of Lilburn is taking acts of vandalism seriously.

"We will not tolerate those who deface and degrade our community," Lilburn Police Chief Ron Houck said.

Authorities believe Cruz over the past few months has been spray painting, or "tagging," businesses in Marketplace shopping center and the Killian Hill Crossing shopping center at the intersection of Indian Trail Road and U.S. 29. Usually, he scribbles the words "vision," "Mr. Vision" or "Aries," which are all Cruz's street names, said Lilburn Police spokesman Tyler Thomas.

The graffiti is not gang-related, Thomas said.

Police officers questioned several people in the area about the vandalism who led them to Cruz. In a subsequent police interview, Cruz was cooperative with the investigation, Thomas said. He reportedly admitted spray painting the businesses.

Cruz even seemed to take pride in his work - telling officers he had taken pictures of the graffiti and uploaded them onto the Internet, Thomas said.

Chief Magistrate Judge Warren Davis said the $60,000 was imposed because Cruz had received repeated warnings in the past.

"He is alleged to be an student artist who considers the property of business owners to be his personal canvas," Davis said. "Their property is a very poor choice to display his unauthorized artwork."

According to Thomas, Cruz's arrest is the latest step in the city's efforts to take a hard line approach to public eyesores such as graffiti, prohibited signs, junk cars and illegal dumping.