Graffiti App could aid law enforcement
INDIANAPOLIS—Police officers in Indianapolis are testing a new smartphone application that allows them to photograph, archive and interpret gang-related graffiti.
The app is still in beta mode, but assuming all the tests are successful, the mobile app could become a useful tool for police chiefs and homeland security directors who deal with gang-related crime in their jurisdictions, Gary Coons, chief of the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety’s Division of Homeland Security, told Security Director News. Researchers at Purdue University designed the app with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate.
Gangs often use graffiti to communicate, whether to target a rival gang member or to announce they’ve moved into a new territory. Officers use their phone’s built-in camera to snap a photo of the graffiti, which will be tagged with the GPS coordinates, date and time, and compared to other images within a database. That database would be accessible by officers on the spot, perhaps to find other instances of that particular design or to see what other graffiti has occurred within a mile radius. It could also be used to track gang growth. “It allows me to look in a certain area to see what kind of gang graffiti is present, who it’s associated with, see if they’re moving, see how they’re mobilizing in certain areas of the city,” Coons said.
The app analyzes the image, taking into account features such as colors and shapes of characters, according to a news release from Purdue University. It is currently designed for Android phones, but an iPhone version will be available in 2012, according to the Associated Press.
Officers in Indianapolis have already begun building a central database of gang-related graffiti, having taken near 1,000 photos of graffiti across the city, according to Coons. “It could become a useful tool for homeland security, along with the police chiefs, to identify certain gangs operating within their area,” he said. “I think the hope would be that, after testing occurs and it turns out to be a useful tool, it would spread throughout the country.”