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SD County Uses Graffiti Database To Nab Vandals

Audio

Aired 1/27/11

Graffiti vandals in San Diego County could face stiffer penalties if they're caught painting public property. That's because the county now relies on a digital database to prosecute taggers.

— Each city in the county is now connected to Graffiti Tracker, a web-based digital database that collects and analyzes acts of graffiti.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said that under the new system, public-works crews will document the graffiti once a vandal paints on public property.

"They go out with a GPS camera, take a picture of the graffiti which identifies the date, the time and the exact location of that graffiti," Gore said. "That information is put into a database, where it's then analyzed and that's how you get these patterns."

Think of it as a kind of digital paper trail to identify prolific taggers across the county.

Before, the District Attorney's office could only prosecute single acts of vandalism. Now taggers can be charged on multiple counts.

That means they could face more jail time … or a hefty sum of restitution.

Asst. Sheriff Ed Pendergast said Graffiti Tracker will also determine whether the tagging was done by gang members or taggers looking for notoriety.

He believes the new system will cut down on turf wars.

"Gangs have traditionally thrown up the gang names on public property to claim their territory," pendergast said. "They typically will cross out the names of rival gangs, they will put death threats on the walls -- so all that info is very useful. Now we can capture it (and have it) analyzed, so it makes some sense to us.

The system debuted three years ago in Escondido. County Supervisor Greg Cox pushed to get all other area cities on board.

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