Doug's Sounding Board


Stopping graffiti

For awhile now as I ride to and from work I get to look at the increase in graffiti around here. It’s ugly and it’s pretty much impossible to stop because catching someone in the act is very very unlikely. So I started brainstorming ideas on how to stop graffiti.

  1. More graffiti! I know that sounds counter-intuitive but when you think about most graffiti as being territory markers then you start to see it as someone’s personal calling card. So the idea is when you wake up in the morning to find some fresh graffiti you add something like “eats ass” to it and then have the police wait that night for the tagger to fix the amendment. Cost is fairly low for the extra spray paint, and the wall already needed repainting so no extra cost there. The main cost comes from the stakeout and the social cost of having obscene message in highly visible areas. Chance of success? Probably not very high. I don’t see a lot of back and forth when rivals deface their tags so why should a little insult matter to them?
  2. Video cameras. Basically this is the obvious appraoch where businesses would have tog et video cameras, mount them in a hidden or out of reach area, and make sure it’s high enough resolution so the perpetrator can actually be identified. The problem here is that video cameras like that are expensive, they are easily defeated with masks or just taken out directly.
  3. RFID tags. I came up with this when I decided video cameras were too expensive but it involves more infrastructure. First you need to get spray paint makers to put RFID tags in the cans, then when you show your driver’s license to buy your spray paint the RFID gets linked to your driver’s license number. Business owners need to buy a series of readers (about $20 each) to monitor the taggable parts of their building and when graffiti happens they can get the RFID that did it and give it to the police. The downsides to this plan are privacy concerns about purchases being tracked. Also the RFID signals can be blocked but then a tagger has to carry around jamming equipment which I don’t think is very likely; tagging seems be somewhat a crime of convenience.
  4. Honey pot. I just thought of this one last week after seeing another under-construction building tagged. Incomplete buildings always seem like a good target. An incomplete house will be tagged but a completed house gets avoided, though fences always seem to be fair game. So the idea is to find an empty lot and put up some very cheap non-permanent pre-fab structure. Then use a stakeout or  cameras to catch those that show up to do their tagging.

Any other ideas?

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