Monday, May 28, 2012

Graffiti sensors have yet to lead to arrests

FARGO – They’re supposed to sniff out spray paint so Fargo police can snuff out crime. But, so far, graffiti sensors installed two years ago have yet to yield any arrests.

Lt. Joel Vettel said he hopes that will soon change, because the manufacturer of the fume-detecting sensor is sending replacements with updated software just in time for prime graffiti season.
“It’s something we’re trying to tweak and modify,” he said.

The department paid $800 apiece for two sensors that were installed in summer 2010 in areas known to be frequent graffiti targets, Vettel said.

When the sensor detects paint fumes, it sends a message to officers’ cellphones and to dispatchers.
Vettel said that while the sensors haven’t worked as reliably as hoped, they have led to some close calls in which police missed the vandals by mere moments.

“Oftentimes, they can get out of there as quickly as we can get there,” he said. “It is challenging.”
The replacement sensors contain updated software that should improve their durability under Fargo’s extreme environmental conditions, Vettel said, adding the vendor, GraffitiTech Inc., has been “great to work with.”

Graffiti incidents tend to escalate in the warmer summer months. Artists and taggers often target areas that are lightly traveled or out of sight, such as walkways under bridges, pedestrian tunnels and alleyways, Vettel said.

“We certainly have pockets of areas that are more exposed to it, but it certainly is something we see citywide,” he said.

The department has an officer who monitors tags for possible gang connections, and he’s confident the vast majority of graffiti seen in Fargo isn’t gang-related, Vettel said.

Moorhead police don’t possess graffiti sensors, but like Fargo police they have found that removing graffiti as quickly as possible is the best response to reduce tagging, Lt. Tory Jacobson said.
“If you allow tagging to start, that’s when other people get the idea, and they tag over,” he said.

Juvenile offenders sentenced to community service are used as graffiti cleanup crews, he said.
Vettel said most graffiti arrests result from tips from the public. But with the new sensors, police are optimistic the technology will start paying off, he said.

Taken from: InForum

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