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Fighting graffiti with data

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Fighting graffiti with data

CREATED Aug 15, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
MARANA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Aiming for a graffiti-free future, one Southern Arizona town is taking a 21st century approach toward combating it. By banding businesses, citizens and city agencies together, Marana hopes for a world free of spray paint vandalism. Leaders hope to do that by harnessing the power and potential of data.
White lettering littering a cement wall. Spray-painted initials dumped on dumpster. Blue and silver stripes streaking across a power pole. This is graffiti in the Pima County town of Marana, where officials have found their old ways of fighting it needed a fresh coat.
9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen asked Marana Police Department Sgt.Tim Brunenkant, “Was there a time when it was considered a police department problem?” “Yes, usually it's been a police department problem because people call in, they report criminal damage--that graffiti's on the side of their wall,” Brunenkant said.
Brunenkant said town leaders realized that other departments were also handling those calls. From public works to community development to the utilities department, each was taking reports and perhaps taking action on their own.
Now, they're painting over those old ways, opting for fresh coat of efficiency, working together and tapping the power of data.
Keen asked town spokesman Rodney Campbell, “Why fight graffiti with data?” “You want it to be a completely integrated effort,” Campbell replied. “A lot of times you want to try to stop a problem before it occurs in the first place.”
To do that, Campbell said there'll be a centralized database, tracking every instance of reported graffiti.
City workers will contribute and, now, citizens and businesses can too. A smartphone app launched this spring let's you snap a picture of graffiti and send it to the town, along with the location. That's detailed information Marana will use to react and be proactive, too.
Here's an example: If more and more people in a particular Marana neighborhood report graffiti popping up, the town will know it’s a problem area, can have crews clean it up quickly and police can step up patrols.
“If you have those places identified and you can patrol them, you can watch them a lot more closely. Chances are you're not going to have taggers show up there,” Campbell said.
The paint is still drying on this new, data-driven project so it's too early to tell the results. Officials have high hopes.
“We talk a lot about wanting to be a clean, safe and healthy community,” Campbell said. “Obviously, having something like graffiti is a real blight and something that we want to make sure that we take care of.”
To download and use the free “My Marana” mobile app to report graffiti, search the Apple or Android stores. More information and instructions are on the town’s Web site. Tucson and Pima County offer similar apps.