A surge of graffiti in the Los Angeles area has prompted police and community leaders to fight back with high-tech tools that go beyond cans of paint and roller brushes, the Los Angeles Times reports. Cleanup crews in the city alone removed 27 million square feet of graffiti last year, up from 21 million square feet in 2004. Elsewhere, “In the last three or four months, it’s been horrible,” said Riverside City Councilman Ed Adkison. “I suspect it runs in cycles, and for whatever reason people are out tagging right now.”
Some police officials tie the graffiti rise to a surge in gang-related crime. Police are using global positioning systems, mass data storage, and digital photography to track graffiti vandals. The sophisticated tools allow police to amass evidence and build stronger cases against culprits than just a few years ago. Sheriff’s detectives are logging on to MySpace.com to catch taggers who use the social networking site to brag about their exploits. “The technology five years ago wasn’t what it is today,” said Tim Kephart, founder of Graffiti Tracker Inc., which has contracts with 13 Southern California cities. The firm uses a camera fitted with a global positioning device to photograph and record the location of graffiti. Analysts review the markings and categorize them based on whether they appear to come from a gang or an individual. The information is then uploaded into an Internet database that police can search to determine patterns of graffiti incidents. Officials said the old way of fighting graffiti –quickly painting over it – is a failed strategy.