Christchurch City Council to track down repeated graffiti taggers with new software

Christchurch City Council is warning taggers in the Garden City to beware, as it hopes to expose those responsible for repeated vandalism on streets and buildings.

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The problem is so bad, it's become a million-dollar annual clean-up for ratepayers. Source: 1 NEWS

The problem is so bad, it's become a million dollar annual clean-up for ratepayers. 

The wall-to-wall graffiti is causing constant headaches for business owners. 

"It just keeps happening again and again," Mexico Christchurch owner Harsh Marwaha told 1 NEWS.

"I would  say weekly basis, every week is something different, it's quite frustrating."

Buildings far and wide are being tagged from top to bottom. Councillor Michael Healy says it's a big problem for the city.

The City Council is aware of repeat offenders, but hasn't had the resources to track them down. 

Until now.  

"We worked with a local Christchurch company called Flock Consulting and we worked together to develop some software that basically takes all the photos we get from the public and contractors, and analyses them," Healy says.

"[It] then looks for unique tags, which are effectively like the offender's signature."

Those 'signatures' are automatically grouped together on a map.

The council can then work with police to build a case file on each tagger. 

"That will enable prosecutions in some cases, or less radical interventions and to help offenders get back on the right path, or maybe get into legitimate street art if they've got talent," Healy says.

Similar systems have been used overseas with great success; West Sydney saw its graffiti reduced by 50 per cent. 

Christchurch City Council gets more than 20,000 graffiti complaints every year, resulting in close to a million dollars in clean-up bills annually.

That figure doesn't take into account costs that private property owners face. 

"The cost of the trial is quite small comparatively," Healy says.

"To date we've spent around $25,000 externally, so we think its a pretty cost effective way to tackle a solution that costs at least $1 million a year.

The system will be trialled for a year and if it lessens the unwelcome paint scrawled on city streets, it's hoped more centres will adopt the anti-tagging technology.