Vandalists were here

Specialized graffiti tracking software helps police show gangs and taggers the writing on the wall

TAGRS eliminated the need for patrol officers to take reports based on cold calls, and because its civilian analyst references field interview cards in relation to the database, investigators have less background work to do. Involving the SRO means the chance of finding solutions other than jail time, while the analyst's liaison relationships with other agencies means she can identify whether gangs or taggers are responsible, further enhancing investigators' efficiency.

Overall, TAGRS significantly reduces investigative time -- an estimated 40-180 hours cut in half, according to OCSD Transit Police Services. On the other hand, says Chamness, subjects are starting to get wise to investigators' tactics. "When we started using the system, people confessed immediately because of all the evidence, but we've started to see people denying they were there," he explains. "So we're now having to back up TAGRS evidence with other investigative tools."

Still he says, out of all the graffiti tracking databases that exist, he likes TAGRS because of its integration and flexibility. It means that not only can law enforcement effectively catch criminals, but public works and transportation abatement efforts are not in vain.

Christa M. Miller is a freelance writer based in Greenville, S.C. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at

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