Company building a graffiti databasePosted: Updated:
Union Gap, WA - A new company is taking steps to clean up the graffiti problem in Yakima.
Even if police catch a gang member, or a tagger doing graffiti, they usually get off with a misdemeanor.
The problem is that no central database exists where different graffiti can be stored, documented and used against an offender when they are caught.
Lorene Blakely snaps a picture with a GPS camera. That image is then wirelessly uploaded into a computer database
"The individual we're looking at here, his moniker is 'Twice,'" says Nathan Kwak, one of the owners of Graffiti Gone.
He shows us pictures on a computer of graffiti done by 'Twice.'
Kwak says he is one of the worst taggers in all of Yakima.
Police arrested ‘Twice' two weeks ago and with pictures documented in this database at Graffiti Gone!, Prosecutors will have the evidence to charge him with a felony.
But Kwak says normally that's not the way it works.
"So when they get a tagger in, they end up having to flip through mountains of photographs to try and find the evidence to hit him with any charges at all," says Kwak.
Lorene Blakely says the GPS in the camera allows them precisely mark where and when the graffiti was found.
By collecting evidence and marking it clearly in a database, rather than just painting over the graffiti, they usually get more charges to stick.
"There are two different types of cities," says Blakeley, who owns Graffiti Gone! with Kwak, "Cities that paint out, and then there's city's that try to cure the problem by collecting evidence so you can actually charge taggers with a felony instead of just a misdemeanor."
Graffiti Gone! is trying to work out a contract with Yakima.
But Kwak and Blakely say the Yakima City Council has told them there is just not enough money in the budget right now.
The costs for the database and all the work associated with it is estimated at about $20,000 a year.