WICKER PARK — If a strong turnout in a Cook County courtroom was any indication, tagging won't be tolerated in Wicker Park and Bucktown.
An alderman, an arresting police officer, a property owner and three community activists were present Wednesday when Cook County Judge Elizabeth Hayes ordered a 23-year-old tagger to complete 50 hours of community service.
Asal Rezaei, 23, who was caught red-handed by cops in February and charged with possession of paint or a marker with intent to deface, will become the seventh participant in a clean up program founded by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) two years ago.
Rezaei's alleged accomplice, Dallas Willis, 22, charged with criminal defacing of property and possession of paint or a marker with intent to deface, failed to show up in court, so Hayes issued a $5,000 bond warrant for his arrest.
Rezaei, who was represented by a public defender, agreed to perform 25 hours of community service in both the 1st and 32nd wards in exchange for the charges to be dropped upon completion, according to court advocate Joe Kopera.
The 32nd Ward cleanup program is spearheaded by volunteer Steve Jensen, who outfits participants in bright vests and gives them scrapers, utility knives and garbage bags so they can remove stickers and posters from light poles, pick up trash and cover graffiti tags on garbage carts, among other tasks.
In addition to the service hours, to be completed by Rezaei's next court date of June 5, Hayes ordered Rezaei to have no contact with the business she tagged.
The business owner appeared in court with Ald. Joe Moreno (1st).
Moreno, who has a graffiti task force program in his ward, said he told Hayes that his ward "is under attack by graffiti and this kind of vandalism is a blight on community."
Jensen recently hit the streets with another tagger, Jason Tobias, 39, who was caught defacing the window of a gyro restaurant in January.
In an interview shortly after the arrest, Tobias said he regretted his actions and called it an "idiotic mistake" on his part.
So far, Tobias has completed five of 30 court-ordered hours of community service, Jensen said.
"[Tobias] has displayed a very good work ethic. He knows he screwed up, got liquored up and shouldn't be doing graffiti with strangers, he's not a thug by any stretch of imagination," said Jensen.