A hi-tech tool that tracks the graffiti left behind by vandals is being used by more and more local law enforcement agencies. It's called the Graffiti Tracker.
The Escondido Police Department's gang unit was the first to start using it three years ago. The Oceanside Police department is using it and this year the San Diego County Sheriff's department began using it.
Graffiti Tracker is a Web-based system that documents graffiti.
Here's how it works: City workers who clean up graffiti take a picture of it first, using a special GPS camera. The image of that Graffiti is then uploaded to the Graffiti Tracker server. Analysts then document the graffiti and determine which ones are done by the same vandal.
"Like a signature (graffiti) contains a little something that every one of their tags that go up will also contain," Sgt. Mike Kearny said.
The Escondido Police sergeant says Graffiti Tracker builds a case file for each tagger. The file is a history of where and when graffiti was found. When the tagger is caught, Sgt. Kearny can use the case file to bring more charges against the tagger.
"And instead of just one citation, that individual is looking at $30,000 to $50,000 worth of damage," Sgt. Kearny said.
The city can then go after the vandal to reimburse the city for the cost of the clean up.
Escondido spends about $300,000 a year in graffiti abatement.