CIO Steve Reneker Discusses How Riverside, Calif., Fights Graffiti with GPS-Enabled Cameras

Graffiti abatement tool uses GPS data to help link taggers to graffiti elsewhere in Riverside.

by / June 6, 2010
Steve Reneker, CIO, Riverside, Calif. Photo by Ken Ericson

Photo: Steve Reneker, CIO, Riverside, Calif./Photo by Ken Ericson

As CIO of Riverside, Calif., Steve Reneker manages the Department of Information Technology. For the last four years, he's overseen IT projects like the 2008 citywide Wi-Fi deployment, which provides Internet access to more than 3,600 low-income families. Reneker is also executive director of SmartRiverside, a nonprofit charged with creating technology initiatives that benefit the city. Two years ago, Riverside began using GPS-enabled cameras to fight graffiti, which helped the city recoup roughly $126,000.


Why did you create the graffiti abatement tool?
The tool was developed because of ongoing graffiti issues. Our biggest issue was figuring out a way, once we caught an individual, to have some knowledge of where that individual may have painted graffiti elsewhere in the city. We came up with a solution between our Police and Public Works departments to use a digital camera that captures GPS data.

How does it work?
Each night, digital images of graffiti are loaded into an [ESRI] ArcGIS application, which creates a front end for Public Works so that abatement crews can validate the information. Our police department reviews the validated images and adds associated data characteristics. For instance, if it's a known gang member, they'll also put in the [gang] moniker. Police have captured suspects in the act of spraying graffiti, and we [can] use the database to find other occurrences associated with that moniker and go after the individual for abatement costs.

What technology do you use?
We primarily use ArcGIS as the front-end development platform. Oracle is the back-end database. The only other components are Ricoh cameras and their associated software. You can use any camera. The Ricoh camera is ruggedized, so you can throw it in the trunk or drop it from 3 feet and it doesn't break into pieces. It also has a Wi-Fi interconnect that we may start using for real-time downloads.

What's planned for the future?
We have three other phases to add to the program. Many are just enhancements to data elements that are being collected and captured. We're also working with University of California, Riverside students to do graffiti recognition much like signatures or fingerprints. We want to have technology where a moniker image can be captured and then correlated with other images to autopopulate information so it's easier for police.


Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.