ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - St. Louis loves it when people come here to paint the town; unless they are here to really paint the town.
'We go out and clean it up and they just come right behind us and put it back,' said Mark Croarkin, MoDOT Maintenance Engineer.
It has been happening for about a month now, a significant increase in graffiti vandalism that seems to be concentrated along Interstate 70 from the Musial Bridge through the depressed section, where new construction has created tempting blank canvasses.
But it is also spreading into other parts of the city and into North St. Louis County.
"I would say two or three times a year, we go out and clean up graffiti in a normal year," Croarkin said. 'This year we have two and three crews out at a time cleaning up graffiti every week,' he said.
John Harrington is co-founder of Paint Louis, a city sanctioned event allowing graffiti artists to express themselves on a section of the downtown floodwall.
"Sounds to me like there is a new artist in town or someone switched their name up and they are trying to get up and get seen," Harrington said.
When this year's Paint Louis event was held the weekend of September 10-12, so many big name artists were invited, others felt squeezed out, and may have acted out.
"Some of the artists who expected to get on didn`t get a chance to get on and maybe went out there and did some things to make us look bad because they weren`t accepted," Harrington said.
He says if those artists went on a spray painting spree, it would have likely lasted only a few days, though seeing it might have emboldened others to pile on.
Hoping to make amends with the city, Harrington and his crew have been spending their own money cleaning up whatever graffiti they can find.
"At the end of the day, even though technically it has nothing to do with Paint Louis, we are going to clean it up and show you that we are on the right side," Harrington said.
Paint Louis began in 1994, but was canceled in 2001 because some of the participants strayed from the floodwall and began painting other parts of the city.
With the support of Mayor Slay, it was revived in 2011, but the mayor`s office has reminded Paint Louis it could lose its permit again if the problem continues.