Police probe Baxter graffiti case

HARLINGEN — Vandals known as “taggers” apparently broke into the city’s tallest building to spray graffiti along its roof.

But they didn’t damage the interior of Baxter Lofts, where a $4.5 million renovation project aims to restore the 92-year-old building to its original condition.

“Lucky they didn’t do anything to the interior,” Rodger Lewis, the construction project’s superintendent, said Friday.

Seven stories over downtown Harlingen, the vandals scrawled the words, “You can’t stop me” across the historic building’s newly-refurbished brick walls.

Now, police are searching for the vandals.

“It’s an active investigation,” police Commander John Parrish said.

Vandals also sprayed the word “Most” along the building’s highest walls.

“It doesn’t appear to be related to a criminal street gang,” Parrish said.

Instead, police believe the vandals are “taggers.”

“It may be a group of taggers — people who go around tagging,” Parrish said. “In an investigation like this, they’re looking at every angle — whether it’s gang-related.”

Vandals apparently broke into the building sometime Wednesday night, downtown Manager Edward Meza said after looking up to discover the graffiti he described as a “shame.”

“We’re going to do a little bit more security,” Lewis said as he worked in the newly-renovated building.

Lewis believes the vandals broke in through a side door before walking up a narrow concrete stairwell to make their way to the roof.

“We figure they probably jiggled the lock — now it’s chained,” he said. “The other doors are chained.”

Meza said building owner MRE Capital, which is turning the former office building into a low-income apartment development, launched a costly project to “meticulously” clean the old brick.

For weeks, construction crews specializing in restoring historic buildings worked to restore the brick dating back to 1927.

Now, crews are planning to remove the graffiti.

“We’ll clean it just like any other tagged brick,” Lewis said. “We’ll use a power washer and a lot of acid.”

The break in comes as MRE Capital searches for tenants.

Because the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs awarded MRE Capital $3.3 million in federal tax credits to help fund the construction project, the developer must rent the units as affordable housing following federal guidelines.

Depending on income and other factors, Baxter Lofts will rent its one-bedroom apartments from $239 to $600 while its two-bedroom apartments will rent from $275 to $800.

A management company plans to conduct background checks to screen applicants.