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Citizen's photo, tip snags vandal red-handed
A Ceres teenager is facing vandalism charges after a vigilant citizen snapped a clear photo of him tagging public property last week and reporting the crime to 911.

The tips led police to arrest Ignacio Musino, 19, of Ceres, who was caught red-handed in photos which will likely prove to cinch the case in court.

Police said the citizen got involved after hearing crime reporting tips taught in the Ceres Police Department' first Citizens Academy, which graduates its 23 member class tomorrow evening.

Musino was seen walking on Morgan Road near Hackett Road at 6:15 p.m. with a permanent marker in his hand and scrawling graffiti on poles and signs. The citizen snapped photos of the baggy-pantsed teen doing the crime and called 9-1-1 with specifics about the vandal. Police said Musino was uncooperative with officers, not knowing his picture had been taken.

"He was vandalizing all the street signs and power poles that he walked past," said Ceres Police Lt. Brent Smith. "He also marked up fire hydrants, business signs at Service and Morgan and 'no parking' signs."

A photo shows Musino walking with outstretched arm, hand holding a permanent marker toward a metal street light pole.

"It helps the case," said Smith of photo taken of the suspect.

The extent of the damage allegedly left behind by Musino exceeded more than $400, qualifying him for felony vandalism charges.

Police say the citizen who aided in the arrest learned tips taught to members of the 11-week academy, which started in January and ends Thursday.

Kim Chapman, who helped organize the Citizens Academy, was happy to hear that word is getting out about ways the public can become eyes and ears for officers.

"We know we would be reaching a limited group because of the size of our academy so we hoped they would share what they learned. A lot have said they have shared tips. We have so many people who want to attend the next academy, which we don't want to do until fall."

Academy training by officers and crime experts, said Chapman, have enabled citizens to observe happenings in a different way. She also said citizens are "more willing to report things they see and are more confidence in not being victims and how they look at things differently. It's really more about observing their surroundings more."

Chapman said she's learned a number of tips to help officers. For example, she said anyone who sees a suspicious vehicle in their neighborhood can text the license number to their own phone - which could be an invaluable tool for capture if it turns out later that the neighbors' house was burglarized. She said a cell phone camera can capture photographic evidence of suspects.