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Camera Becomes New Weapon in War on Graffiti

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http://latimes.com/news/local/la-000101835dec24.story

 

Vandalism: Officials say the motion-sensing device deters taggers, but critics say it just pushes the problem to new locations.

 

By LIZ KAY, TIMES STAFF WRITER

 

Police and city officials are employing a new motion-sensing camera in their never-ending campaign against graffiti. But critics wonder if the device is pushing taggers to new locations rather than solving the multimillion-dollar problem.

The Flashcam-530, made by Q-Star Technologies of Chatsworth, features a modified 35-millimeter camera triggered by a motion detector. When activated, the unit plays a recorded announcement and takes photographs.

 

Several Los Angeles police divisions have obtained cameras, including four purchased by Operation Cleansweep, the Department of Public Works' anti-graffiti program. Seven more cameras are on the way. Other cities and agencies throughout the state have also been utilizing the cameras. Officials hope that the $2,495 cameras will pay for themselves by preventing the need to constantly repaint heavily tagged areas. More than $8 million citywide and $87 million statewide was spent in 1999 to remove graffiti, according to a survey.

 

The camera has prevented gang graffiti and other crimes on a wall in east Hollywood since July, said Officer Joe Bunch of the Hollywood Division. Before the camera, bought by the Hollywood Police Support Assn., was installed, "you'd have four gangs tagging on the wall at any one time," he said.

 

Now, the wall, at Lemon Grove Avenue off Western Avenue, has stayed unmarked for months. And people no longer congregate on the corner for narcotics sales and prostitution, Bunch said.

 

He acknowledges that such illegal activity "probably has moved back up to Sunset, but it has deterred this activity" at that spot.

 

A similar situation exists at Venice Boulevard and Toberman Street in Pico-Union, the crossroads of two rival gangs.

 

Orosman Vizcaino, 72, and his son Rick, 36, have chased taggers away from the wall of Carrera Apparel, their family's clothing manufacturing business, for years. Now the camera is scaring taggers away.

 

"They turn around the corner and there's a flash," the elder Vizcaino said.

Rick Vizcaino said in the last few weeks, gangs have targeted a site half a block away.

 

Because the camera seems to move the illegal action elsewhere, not end it, Rampart Division detectives are not sold on the idea.

 

"The cameras have not had any direct impact, no matter where they are placed, in reducing graffiti in the Rampart area," Det. Rick Ramos said.

 

Other types of surveillance cameras have taken a beating at the hands of taggers, Ramos said.

 

"They rip them off," he said. "They break them, they turn them, they shoot them up. It's more of a game for them. If they are going to do their illegal activity, they are going to make sure [the cameras] are not working."

 

The battery-powered Flashcam is designed to withstand attack. It is housed in a steel case. Its lens and flash unit are protected by a bullet-resistant cover, which the manufacturer says can withstand a 9-millimeter handgun bullet.

 

After the camera's film has been used, its sensor and flash still work. Even so, Bunch climbs a ladder every four or five days to insert a new roll of film.

 

Officials have not made any arrests based on photos taken by the camera at any location. Rampart Division Sgt. Nick Aldana said pictures are seldom clear enough to identify the person responsible for the graffiti.

 

Officer Ron Stilz, who coordinates the Van Nuys Community Tagger Task Force, agrees on the need for better-quality cameras and photos.

 

In a Van Nuys Division test, the camera successfully curbed graffiti at one location, but the task force still decided not to purchase the equipment. The officers had hoped to obtain photographs of sufficient quality to prosecute offenders.

 

Vandalism that causes more than $400 worth of damage is punishable as a felony. For a first-time offender, that charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor, said David Traum, head deputy of the complaints division of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

 

The Van Nuys task force is considering buying a video surveillance system that is effective in low light and costs about $5,000, Stilz said.

 

Ken Anderson, who helped develop the Flashcam with his partner, Ralph Hasenbalg, said customers are told of the unit's limitations.

 

"The key word is deterring graffiti, or trash dumping or breaking and entering," he said. "If you buy this thing on the idea you're going to get [high-quality] pictures, you're probably going to be disappointed."

 

Since the Wilshire Division installed a camera at a graffiti hot spot earlier this month, no new marks have appeared on the wall along Washington Boulevard at Normandie Avenue.

 

Taggers also avoid a long wall bordering Angelus Rosedale Cemetery on the opposite side of the street, Officer Eva Perry said.

 

Perry said preventing gang graffiti prevents gang violence. After one gang places its tag on the wall, another inevitably follows and crosses it out, she said.

 

"Eventually it leads to two gangs fighting or some kind of gang activity," Perry said.

In Devonshire, the camera has stopped graffiti in a Granada Hills alley about a block from Kennedy High School, said Officer Sean Reinhardt. A homeowner whose property had been hit by an onslaught of gang graffiti "was ecstatic," Reinhardt said.

The latest camera to be installed went up Dec. 12 at an unused rail line and tunnel in Palms that has been a popular site for taggers for decades. The area, known on the street as "the motor yard," was once part of the Exposition Line. Now the property of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the tracks and a tunnel lie secluded between the Santa Monica Freeway and National Boulevard.

 

Anyone entering the site is trespassing on MTA property, so the camera has been set to activate on any motion. At busier locations, the motion detector can be set on a delay to avoid photographing people just walking by.

 

The Palms graffiti doesn't stay within the seldom-seen borders of this unused tunnel. Businesses and residences in the area suffer the effects of crimes other than tagging.

"Now they are coming and drinking," said Saied Isaacson of Cheviot Plaza Properties, which owns a building in the area. The company repaints every two weeks.

 

Officer Anthony Vasquez saw two teenage boys walk up to the Palms camera, activating the recorded announcement: "Stop! It is illegal to spray graffiti here! We have just taken your photograph. We will use this photograph to prosecute you. Leave now!"

 

Vasquez said the teenagers threw a piece of wood at the camera. When they realized their photos were being taken, however, "they put their hoods on real quick and started running," he said.

*

Times staff writer Milton Carrero Galarza contributed to this report.

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.masks......

 

..........2 dollar closeout holloween masks are looking better and better.

 

CAPS........speakin of your sister, i dissed her,I rode her last week and she gave me this sticky blister.

 

 

www.sprapex.com... supplying good Euro paint for all the U.S.

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HA! A lot of yards in Germany and in bigger cities throughout Europe have already had motion-sensing and warm-sensitive and real cameras...and the cops come in helicopters...:heated: :heated: :heated: :heated:

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Guest mothrasmomma

whaats new? they usually only got shit like that on the walls tho...the rooftops is fair game.

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Guest GoBiloe

cover the protective glass in etch bath... easy. or spray, but that could come off. or just get a fuckin baseball bat. shit seems very foolish.

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we have the ghetto bird here too..... with a city with not even 1 million people our police force has quite the budget.

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wear a mask spray the lens break the damn thing shit anyone who runs away from a camera should of just stayed home in the first place

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Originally posted by ~KRYLON2~

throw rocks at it, or better yet buy a ten dollar paintball gun and use the camera as target practice

 

 

now thats style!

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some cameras where i am at have some motion sensing thing that notifies the police now doesnt that put a bummer on the night

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Guest Latin_Bomber
Originally posted by Some1

some cameras where i am at have some motion sensing thing that notifies the police now doesnt that put a bummer on the night

thanks for the info-but all i gotta say is f* the hoe-lice...

If i''ll ever see a cop @ a painting spot...i'll toss my paint..and f* run

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I know about that type of shit.I live in L.A. And onetime i caught this spot and i walk a bit and some dam disco light goes off and says "This is a no-graffiti area""We are dialing the police" and your hear fucking dialing! Shit freaked me out.Then this asshole comes out of his building trying to chase me.Fuck that bitch,next time im blasting t that foo.........fuck people that try to be heroes

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Guest Latin_Bomber
Originally posted by 372ER

I know about that type of shit.I live in L.A. And onetime i caught this spot and i walk a bit and some dam disco light goes off and says "This is a no-graffiti area""We are dialing the police" and your hear fucking dialing! Shit freaked me out.Then this asshole comes out of his building trying to chase me.Fuck that bitch,next time im blasting t that foo.........fuck people that try to be heroes

ii fell you there--peace out and watch for the popo

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.......nope..........

 

..SERIOUS........ there are millions of fuckin spots. They can't watch them all. Just don't even play with the cameras. Not worth it. Go get ups in the newschool spots. Put some thought into your mission. Unless you get buffed then that's another ball gizz.

 

CAPS....... police........... gotta love em. They wish they could get up....... that's why they bust the spots.

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cops just make me laugh. I say they just let there k-9's roam the streets at night thatll solve everything.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"can I have my head back?" -SG

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$2,495? damn.... let me find one of those cameras somewhere and i will rack that shit.

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Guest JoeHatesCops

oh shit

 

Ive seen those cameras, they cant do shit, they even say so in the article

"Officials have not made any arrests based on photos taken by the camera at any location. Rampart Division Sgt. Nick Aldana said pictures are seldom clear enough to identify the person responsible for the graffiti." Do a throw and book.

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Guest serpent of the light

maybe someday they'll put cameras on the train cars.

just wear a bandana around your face cameras cant do shit about that.

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