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Tattoos and the 'Art' of Crime

CEDAR RAPIDS (CBS2/FOX28) - Think of them as ink filled snowflakes - no two are alike.

"You can do the same type of tattoo, but there are so many different styles," says Bart Earsa, a Tattoo Artist at Wildside Tattoo.

Artists here they say their clientele is becoming as diverse as their art.

"It's certainly picked up over this last decade," says fellow artist John O'Connor. "It's certainly not the carnies or the bikers or what not anymore."

With these works of art becoming more common, it has allowed tattoos to etch their way onto the canvas of crime.

"You hear about people getting marked by their tattoos, either positive or negative," Earsa says.

Something O'Connor has seen first-hand.

"Several years ago, there was a robbery," O'Connor says. "This guy came in, he wanted a tribal around his eye. 3 to 4 weeks later, he was on the front page - they caught him because of his tattoo."

It's not just the suspects, however.

"In the decedent cases I've examined, there have been more tattoos noted than in the past," says Arleen Zahn-Houser, Linn County Deputy Medical Examiner.

Medical examiners say tattoos can help identify a victim, but not too often.

"Usually a family, a neighbor, dental records would be used first," she says. "So I think it's a little rarer."

It's not something these artists think about when they are creating their masterpieces.

"It's a good way to get your art on the street," Earsa says.

Using them to solve crimes is great, but for them, it's about the art.

"Everybody wants to be different these days, get a tattoo."
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