The Whalers General Store is one of several merchants victimized by the acid graffiti trend, which is expensive to repair.

Graffiti trend
hitting the glass

Several storefront windows
have been vandalized with acid

A mainland vandalism trend has reached Hawaii with more than a dozen businesses in Waikiki and Honolulu being "tagged" by graffiti artists who use hydrofluoric acid to burn their mark into plate-glass windows.

The damage left behind by "acid graffiti" is expensive to fix and sometimes involves replacing the damaged glass entirely, said one expert. Triton Restoration owner Maurice Crabbe said he has had about 18 repair jobs involving acid graffiti since April.

"I've done maybe eight stores at the Hilton," Crabbe said, "four at the Sheraton, two at the Hyatt and some others around town.

"I know it's hydrofluoric acid because its pretty popular on the East Coast where I've done some work."

Some of the acid-etched tags left behind include "ACE," "ACE MVP," and either "OZ" or "DZ," said Crabbe.

Honolulu police have been informed about the acid graffiti, and Crabbe said he might have talked to a possible suspect.

"I was getting my equipment ready to grind down the glass when this kid came up to me and started asking some specific questions about how I was going to take the graffiti off," he said. "Then he started questioning me why I was doing it and said, 'Hey, at least I'm giving you work to do.' And then he took off.

"I had $3,000 worth of equipment in my hands, so I wasn't about to leave it there to chase him. ... I'm working with police now, though."

Security officials for the Retail Merchants of Hawaii said they are concerned because the hydrofluoric acid being used is potentially dangerous. They said they are taking this more seriously than if it was just the traditional paint tagging.

"This acid etching costs much more to fix, and it's bad news if you get it on you," said Tim Haverly, chairman of security management for the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. "We've battled graffiti of the normal type for a long, long time ... but this is something entirely different."

Hydrofluoric acid is known to be one of the strongest inorganic acids and is used mainly for industrial purposes such as glass etching, metal cleaning and electronics manufacturing. Some cities that have experienced acid graffiti include New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

"It's the latest trend," Crabbe said. "The acid comes in a can and looks like foam, but you need a license to buy it, so I don't know how they're getting it."



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