A tagger made for an easy arrest after he accepted a lift from a policeman while hitch-hiking in the rain - then admitted he was a tagger during the ride.
Constable Michael Kneebone said he felt sorry for the shivering hitch-hiker on the road near Kaiapoi in pouring rain on Saturday.
So he offered him a lift in the marked patrol car.
"The first thing I noticed was that his hands were covered in paint."
The youth told him he had been painting his brother's room, in the same grey that featured in much of Kaiapoi's new graffiti.
He then told Kneebone he was known to Christchurch police for tagging.
Kneebone dropped him on the far side of the Waimakariri River, returned to the station to check his passenger's background and talked to a "few other people", who confirmed he might have his man.
"There was enough evidence there to execute a search warrant on his house on Sunday night and [we] found paint-covered clothes. Then he admitted what he'd been up to.
"I guess it's karma, isn't it? You go out of your way to help someone and the guy you're looking for ends up right there beside you."
A 17-year-old Christchurch youth and an 18-year-old from Kaiapoi were arrested for intentional damage.
Police had been alerted to vandalism in Kaiapoi on Friday morning after someone had "gone nuts" with paint and a roller brush on Thursday night.
"It was absolutely everywhere - homes, community buildings, commercial properties. Kaiapoi Borough School was also hit again, after having windows and walls kicked in the other week."
"People have just had enough. This is a town that's been struggling determinedly to get ahead since the earthquakes, and the last thing it needs is this kind of mindless carry on."
Why someone with a criminal history would accept a ride in a police car, despite the weather, fascinated Kneebone.
Police aim to track down two others who may have been involved.
Sergeant Mike Brookland hailed the outcome as "a very good result."
"It's good investigative police work by Constable Kneebone, " he said.
"People here are sick of graffiti all over the place. If we get more we will put a large quantity of resources to catch the offenders."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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