New system helps track taggers
Authorities have a new tool to track graffiti, and it shows the tags of some vandals are appearing in their hundreds in Hutt City.
The national Stop Tag database was adopted by the Hutt City Council late last year and is being introduced to Hutt Valley police to help with investigations and prosecutions.
Since September it shows nine tags have been logged in the city more than 300 times each, and six others more than 200 times. In that time council contractors working to remove graffiti within 48 hours have logged more than 6600 different entries for Hutt City.
Users say Stop Tag allows them to log where and when individual tags appear, and to record photo evidence and information about when and how they were removed and how long it took contractors to remove them. The database can be searched for occurrences of a particular tag, graffiti that has been made within a specific time frame or within geographical areas, and can map patterns.
Senior Sergeant Steve Harwood says the tool will be invaluable for police to discover who is responsible for graffiti, and to build a case against them.
"It's very exciting. We expect prosecutions and will be seeking reparation for the damage."
One of the first cases is likely to involve a number of full-sized graffiti murals sprayed onto the sides of train carriages parked overnight in Woburn from April to May.
"We expect it is tens of thousands [of dollars] worth of damage . . . we'll be talking to them about how they are going to pay their bill," Mr Harwood says.
Senior Constable Maurice Partridge says police can compare information from schools, security cameras and publicly supplied intelligence with the data, and see which tags often occur together.
"For some of these guys you can see that they are pretty out there, and will be doing 10 a night . . . especially if it's a very small tag and they're doing them on fences and power poles or electricity boxes."
Mr Partridge says a difficulty facing those working to crack down on graffiti is proving all instances of the same tag are connected to the same person.
"If we can catch someone doing it, and bring them into the station we can then see all of those tags loaded . . . but it could be a crew tag with several people using it."
HCC graffiti eradication co- ordinator Delly Ranginui was behind the introduction of the system and says the HCC graffiti removal team have got it down to a fine art. They were the first team nationally to introduce iPhones for contractors to log data and photos directly to Stop Tags as they prepare to remove it.
In June his team erased 97 per cent of graffiti reported to them within 48 hours.
Graffiti costs Hutt City about $500,000 a year and costs the region about $5 million, he says.
Stop Tags was developed by a Hamilton company and is being used by many councils throughout the country. Anti-tagging law close, P3.