Police May Have Canned Notorious Bay Area Tagger

Street artist who goes by the name "Girafa" was allegedly arrested by police in San Jose

By Sajid Farooq
|  Friday, Oct 30, 2009  |  Updated 1:00 PM PDT
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Police May Have Canned Notorious Bay Area Tagger

Plug 1 on Flickr

An example of Girafa's work.

The elusive San Francisco tagger obsessed with giraffes and falsely rumored to be the founder of a gang has allegedly been arrested in San Jose.

The man who goes by tag "Girafa" and is famous for painting giraffes everywhere may have been arrested but then again maybe not, because no one is sure who he really is.

Steven Free, 30, was arrested Tuesday after police from San Jose and San Francisco searched his home on Cabrillo Street in the City's Outer Richmond neighborhood.

The San Jose police graffiti enforcement unit says it linked Free to 10 felony tagging cases in San Francisco. How do they know the work was done by Girafa? Each one features a cartoon of a giraffe and the tag Girafa.

Girafa explained his love for giraffes in a rare interview with the magazine "I Hate Graffiti."

""I paint giraffes to bring awareness that wild animals don’t belong in…zoos. Just like a painted giraffe doesn’t belong on a rooftop, a city wall, or a delivery truck, right?" he told the magazine, according to whatimseeing.com.

In the article, Girafa goes on to explain his connection to San Jose, saying he was raised there.

"I was a deformed baby and placed for sale because the San Francisco Zoo had no place for half-breeds," he said. "My owners from San Jose purchased me and I grew up away from my giraffe mother and zookeeper father."
 
Police said the 10 pieces attributed to Girafa cost San Jose $40,000 in damages.

Police linked the ironically named Free to the paintings because they found pictures similar to Girafa's graffiti in his house.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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