The San Diego police have a new tool that helps them catch graffiti vandals. To use the tool, police take pictures of the graffiti and geotag the pictures using GPS location. Then a special graffiti analyst compares that tagging incident with other incidents to match them up and help find the vandal.
“When we catch that individual, we can charge him not only with that graffiti crime, but all the other ones as well… By looking at the locations we can essentially see where the suspect may live because what we’re finding is a lot of times suspects tag right around their homes. So, what we can do is they happen in a certain neighborhood and then we can start tracking to see who’s tagging in that neighborhood and try to track the individual that way” says Escondido police Lieutenant Bob Benton.
An example of the Graffiti Tracker’s effectiveness can be seen in the case of 19-year-old Isaiah Gastumel of Escondido, who was arraigned on six felony and 146 misdemeanor counts of vandalism thanks to the system. The court originally ordered about $22,000 in restitution to local businesses, but after using the Graffiti Tracker to find more of Isaiah’s “work,” the amount was brought up to more than $185,000. Lt. Benton said that is a real success story especially in a hard to prosecute crime like vandalism.