Mobile app and snap: QLD’s latest anti-graffiti weapon

By Paul Hemsley

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s has roped in Crime Stoppers to help councils in their battle against graffiti vandalism following the development and launch of a new mobile app that lets the public report the location of vandalised property to their local government.

The app is being used by Crime Stoppers Queensland’s anti-graffiti initiative GraffitiSTOP, a government funded hotline that takes calls from people reporting graffiti in their local area.

But to make it easier for people to instantly report so-called “tags” on the spot, GraffitiSTOP is now harnessing smartphone software developed by specialist mobile information vendor Global GBM.

The app enables people with an Android phone or Apple handset to “pinpoint” the location of graffiti on a map, upload a photo and send the information to Crime Stoppers Queensland.

Queensland Minister for Local Government, David Crisafulli said the information will then be processed by Crime Stoppers and sent to the council where the graffiti has been located.

A problem that has frequently troubled councils following up on graffiti reports is that when a call is made, sometimes the exact location cannot be found because the caller’s information about the location was inaccurate.

But Crime Stoppers Queensland has indicated that the new app now provides the exact location of the tag through GPS coordination, which makes it easier for the person reporting the tag and for the council workers.

Crime Stoppers Queensland chief executive officer Trevor O’Hara said all Queensland councils are participants in the GraffitiSTOP program and if graffiti is reported in their area, the tag location information is passed onto them “to have it rapidly removed”.

The Newman government’s campaign to make it easier for people to report graffiti-tagged spots isn’t a new tactic in Australia.

Local governments in New South Wales have already been working with not-for-profit organisation VandalTrak in a similar scheme.

NSW councils such as Blacktown City Council, Gosford City Council, Ku-ring-gai Council and Shellharbour City Council have been using the VandalTrak app in a similar manner that allows people to photograph a graffiti tag with their smartphone and send it to the council with a GPS pinpoint.

A key feature of the VandalTrak app is that it helps councils create a geographic profile of an individual vandal’s graffiti activity by recognising a common signature or style.

As of June 2013, the VandalTrak app resulted in 40 offenders facing prosecution or youth conferencing.

However Mr O’Hara told Government News that this feature is not yet used in the Queensland app because it isn’t the goal of GraffitiSTOP.

“That’s something that councils such as Brisbane City Council do, which works with the Queensland Police Service in its ‘special graffiti taskforce’ to create a profile of the tag offender,” Mr O’Hara said.

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