"Shorty 140" is the tag line of a phantom-like graffiti artist whose ability to paint overpasses all over Queens and slip away undetected has confounded the NYPD.
The scrawlings were the kind of vandalism that NYPD Commissioner William Bratton once said drove him out of his mind as he went back and forth to his summer home in the Hamptons.
"This subject, Shorty 140, had been beating us up pretty good along the parkways," said Capt. Elwood Selover, commander of the citywide vandals task force which investigates graffiti. While the spray-painting of phrases and drawings is considered by many to be an urban art form, to Bratton it's another quality of life crime.
NYPD officials said Thursday they have found the man behind the Shorty 140 moniker.
Alberto R. Rodriguez, 33, who police said has lived at various times on Long Island and in College Point, Queens, was charged in a Queens criminal court complaint with criminal mischief and the felony crime of making graffiti.
Investigators nabbed Rodriguez Dec. 3 through a combination of lucky surveillance and the use of a special police database that catalogs thousand of graffiti tags across the city, officials said.
It costs the city about $1,200 to clean up a piece of the graffiti, Selover said.
Port Washington attorney Mitchell Elman, who is representing Rodriguez, declined to comment about the case.
Selover said that Officer Christopher Benson actually watched a man last January scrawl the tag Shorty 140 at the intersection of the Cross Island Parkway and Union Turnpike. For investigative reasons, Selover said he couldn't comment on why Benson didn't arrest the artist at that time.
Selover's unit collected other renditions of the Shorty tag, including one that accompanied by the words "RIP John Gotti," and entered them in the database. Eventually, Rodriguez was picked up by police in a DWI case and he was charged with the graffiti offenses, Selover said.
Rodriguez may challenge why cops believe he was responsible for all of the graffiti. But Selover said his unit has cops who are graffiti signature experts who can convince local district attorneys that the signatures are unique.