December 16, 2014

Amazing Detective Work Leads to Arrest of Serial Tagger

It is time to get up on your "The Wave" and tip your cap to Detective Brian Warren.  His excellent work identified and tracked down this serial tagging suspect.  

Derek Murphy - 21 years old from Petaluma, CA

Brian and his team followed up on the tagging cases that were discovered on June 10, 2014.  The suspect vandalized property with the tag “BERG” or “GREB”.  His tags damaged city parks, walls, fences and two police vehicles parked at the city’s corporation yard for repairs. Here are a few photos:

During the investigation, Brian shared information with Northern California agencies seeking information on similar tags.   This information led to contact with a task force investigator from San Francisco Police Department who shared a possible lead.  Brian and his partners continued follow-up, which eventually led to working with investigators from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.  Through this collaboration, we were able to identify Mr. Murphy and a second suspect as responsible for the tagging here in Santa Cruz.  The identity of the second suspect is being withheld pending a warrant request.  We are working on locating him.

On December 15, 2014, a team of SCPD detectives served a search warrant at a home in Petaluma and a home in American Canyon.  Mr. Murphy was contacted at the Petaluma home and arrested.   During the searches, detectives seized a portfolio of taggings, sketch books, canvas art, photos, computers and digital cameras.  Images retrieved from these devices show multiple taggings on public and private property in several locations. The evidence painted the suspect into a corner, and into the back of our patrol car. 

Detectives believe our suspect may be responsible for vandalizing property with his tags throughout the west coast from Bakersfield to Seattle.  We are collaborating with those agencies to assist in their cases.  While driving to the search warrant locations from Santa Cruz,  SCPD detectives noticed numerous tags from our suspect along Bay Area freeways to include Highways 101, 880, and 37.

In addition to any criminal penalties, SCPD will be seeking restitution for the damaged property.  Mr. Murphy has a history of arrest in San Francisco that includes vandalism and resisting arrest. Mr. Murphy was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail for felony Vandalism charges.