A downtown cop is targeting a skate and snowboard shop for "inadvertent promotion" of graffiti culture—because the store stocks spray paint.

"The problem is, we have a skateboard shop that sells skateboards, apparel, and then paint," says Officer Matt Miller, referring to The Office, which opened a store at SW 1st and Ankeny last May. "And because we know the skateboard culture is intertwined with graffiti, why would you sell paint?" Graffiti has doubled this winter compared to last winter in some parts of the city, including downtown ["Double Trouble," News, Feb 22].

Miller, the graffiti investigation officer for Central Precinct, says he plans to send a letter to The Office, "requesting they make the conscientious decision not to sell paint."

The Office does indeed sell paint—180 colors, made by a German manufacturer called Molotow. There is also a wooden skate ramp outside the downtown store, covered in the same kinds of tags the city's graffiti abatement team has reportedly found in a two-block radius of the store.

"The ramp belongs to The Office," says Marcia Dennis, the city's graffiti abatement coordinator. "And the writing on there is probably there with permission, so it is not graffiti. But there are markings on there done by the same people who are tagging downtown buildings. And that's the problem."

The Office's manager, Kevin Nimick, says he hasn't heard anything from the cops about selling paint, but says the paint he's selling—which costs $6.50 to $8.50 a can—"is not the same stuff that's out there polluting the streets."

Nimick says street tags are done with paint stolen from hardware stores—not the professional-grade paint he sells, which is mainly used "by artists for commissioned work." He adds that The Office's East Burnside graffiti gallery is included on a city-sponsored First Friday arts tour of the Central Eastside.

"I don't want to go head to head with the police," says Nimick. "But they're just trying to have a place to direct blame for Portland's graffiti. Why not ban the sale of handguns, if they're worried about people getting shot?"