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Tracking Graffiti Pays Off for Denver Police

DENVER -- Taggers and graffiti artists beware. Denver police are tracking their every move, thanks to the help of a database that analyzes tags, maps them and even comes up with a cost of damage.

Friday, police announced the arrest of a graffiti tagger blamed for more than $46,000 in damage to buildings in Denver. His name is Michael Gregory Richardson. He's known by the name Tower, and police said he spray painted more than 332 places in the last year.

Detectives in the Denver graffiti unit said they were able to connect Richardson to hundreds of tags because of a new computer program they used called Graffiti Tracker.

Employees with Denver Partners Against Graffiti, who remove graffiti all over the city on a daily basis, take a photo of the tag before they remove it or paint over it.

"At the end of the day they upload that data on that disc on the camera to an analyst which we pay a service," said Detective George Gray, of the Denver Police Department Graffiti Unit. "They actually look at it and decipher what it says in that picture, who the taggers are or who all the gangsters are and they categorize it and enter it into a database."

Tuesday, one abatement team took 79 photos. Gray said seven abatement crews are in Denver and it is not uncommon for the entire team to upload up to 600 photos in one day.

"Before if somebody was caught doing graffiti we only had the stuff they were caught with or in that immediate area," said Detective Gerard Alarcon, of the Denver Police Department Graffiti Unit. "With this new tracking system we are able to hold (taggers) accountable to all of the stuff they were able to do over the last couple of years."

"Our goal is to get that restitution back to the city and help (the city) offset some of the cost the city is occurring having to clean off all of this graffiti," said Gray.

Gray said while some people who do graffiti just tag, he said others are what they call hybrid crews.

"They are doing a lot of other crimes, a lot of violent crimes now and a lot of them move into that gangster element," said Gray.

The detectives said the community has really helped track graffiti artists by calling in tips on new tags or when they see someone painting.

Investigators are now asking for the public's help to find several other taggers who go by the following names: Rozo, Jerk, Ounce, Dozer, Onek, Savage, Slim, Havik and Semer.

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