Facing the consequences of an inked-up mug

Tracy Briscoe
Tracy Briscoe
Posted: January 27, 2012

SOMETIMES, a person's past - or future - is written all over his face.

A particularly unusual police mug shot released in November showed Tracy Briscoe, a North Philly man with his face nearly covered with tattoos. Briscoe, 18, was arrested in a carjacking and shooting near his home, and is now in jail awaiting trial.

What Briscoe and other knuckleheads who've made the same questionable, permanent decision may not realize is that a face splattered with tattoos only helps cops identify and find suspects, and it can serve as a bull's-eye on the street, police say.

"It makes it easier for the criminal element to also identify you, and what you're about," said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives.

Tattoo artists and enthusiasts say that doesn't bother many young Philadelphians who are looking to jump on the body-art bandwagon.

"The new generation is just like, 'I don't care,' " said Kumony McFarland, a tattoo artist in Oxford Circle. "Now, people are just getting tattoos just to be getting them."

Letters and other graphics that are commonly drawn across people's faces generally mean different things to different people, tattoo artists said, or that the person with the tattoo simply likes the way it looks. McFarland said that with the rising popularity of body art, people are more concerned with their tattoos being stylish than the meanings that may be associated with them - if they mean anything at all.

For instance, Jamar Wheeler, a freelance tattoo artist, said the Ralph Lauren Polo logo is becoming a popular tattoo of choice.

But one tattoo that is more often showing up on urban, black youth - the spider web - has roots in the white-supremacist biker gangs of the '70s, though that meaning has been diluted.

Teardrop tattoos beneath the eye - one of few tattoos with universal meaning - are now considered passe, McFarland and others said. Those are widely understood to signify that the person with the tattoo has either killed someone, or that someone close to them was killed.

- Phillip Lucas

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