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Monday, February 11, 2013

If You Spray, You Will Pay

Monday, February 11, 2013

Graffiti vandals in Santee and elsewhere in San Diego County have been paying the price for defacing property.
Court-ordered restitution forcing taggers to repay local governments for graffiti removal has increased since police and public works crews began using the web-based Graffiti Tracker program three years ago.

“The message we’re sending to graffiti vandals couldn’t be clearer: We’ll catch you and you will pay,” said Bill Maertz, Santee’s director of community services.
Last year, a teenager who was a prolific tagger was arrested, convicted and ordered to repay the city of Santee more than $20,000 in restitution, Maertz said.

In 2011, Santee had 1,178 incidents of graffiti vandalism  that defaced a total of 12,214 square feet of surfaces that had to be restored by public works crews, according to a study by the San Diego Association of Governments.  Countywide, the average court-ordered restitution in 2011 was $2,344 per arrestee compared to an average of $1,592 the previous year.
Graffiti Tracker allows Santee’s public works crews to take pictures of graffiti using a special camera that records the exact location.  Before the photo is taken, a 2-by-2 foot white board is placed next to the graffiti to provide a scale to estimate its square footage. The information is uploaded to a central data base, where analysts identify the vandal’s  graphic signature and maintain a running tally of incidents. When a perpetrator is arrested, Graffiti Tracker allows police to compile a complete record of the offender’s activities and the cumulative costs for repairs.

“Graffiti Tracker in essence, allows us to do graffiti incident reports, which frees up our local sheriff’s deputies to perform higher priority services,” said Public Works Supervisor Sam Rensberry.
Santee’s city policy is to remove graffiti as quickly as possible, and always within 24 hours of being reported.

“The best deterrent is to knock it down right when it goes up,” said Rensberry. “That seems to discourage them.”
Residents can help the cause by reporting graffiti to the city’s hotline at (619) 258-4195 ext. 188 or online by clicking here.

Below is a YouTube video created by the county that explains Graffiti Tracker:

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