One or more graffiti artists are on the loose in Merritt, causing major issues for business owners and residents who want to keep their walls clean.

Since mid-September, at least five images of a heart and anarchy symbol with a message of love have been sprayed on Merritt buildings and vehicles. The images stretch between six and eight feet.

The vast majority of the vandalized properties have been in the Nicola Avenue and Charters Street area of Merritt.

“This person has been pretty busy lately,” Merritt RCMP Const. Tracy Dunsmore said. “We even had a lady come in and tell us that someone spray-painted her car. It rained a lot that night so much of it washed off.”

The traditional anarchy symbol features a circle with black lines running through it to form an A, but instead of using a circle, Merritt’s vandal is using a heart.

“The graffiti is pretty blatant,” Dunsmore noted. “It sounds like there are other ones that haven’t even been reported.”

The anarchy symbol is used often in music and on a television series called “Sons of Anarchy,” which premiered in 2008 on cable network FX. The show is about an outlaw motorcycle club.

Dunsmore said she doesn’t believe the TV series necessarily promotes anarchy, but the show has gained the attention of pop culture.

A few of the locations are on Nicola Avenue, with one being an old abandoned car dealership and the other is Garden Sushi.

The difficulty with the Garden Sushi graffiti is the wall is brick and can’t be painted over. The material is also very difficult to clean.

As the owner of A.D. Property Maintenance, Jason Arnold has been called to clean up much of the graffiti throughout town.

“We’ve done extensive cleaning at the Railyard Mall, and also at Garden Sushi,” he said. “Where we’ve been taking it off, they have been putting it back on.”

He said the last couple years have been relatively graffiti-free in the Merritt area.

“We used to have a group in town called the Red and Blue Wrecking Crew that would come through and they would do a lot,” he said. “Surprisingly enough, when I was involved with the church youth group, that crew was in the youth group, and when they found out that I was doing the mall, it all started to stop.”

Like Arnold, Dunsmore said she hasn’t noticed many graffiti vandals throughout town up to this point.

“Four years ago there was some smaller graffiti going around,” she said. “We were able to get information to find out who it was, but so far we haven’t had any information on who this might be and this is definitely a lot more in-your-face graffiti. It’s not just someone writing a name on a stop sign with a spray can.”

Dunsmore said the symbols are new to Merritt.

If the vandal is caught, they could face charges for mischief of either over $5,000 or under $5,000.

Dunsmore said each offence is likely under $5,000, after considering the cost of paint and labour for fixing the damage.

Each offence would have to be proven individually to uphold more than one charge.