Program helping Chula Vista eradicate graffiti problem

Graffiti Tracker aids in arrests

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Chula Vista is being overrun by graffiti, but authorities in the South Bay city are using an online program that is leading to arrests and restitution.

For two years, the Chula Vista Police Department has been using the Graffiti Tracker program, a database that monitors all documented graffiti within city limits.

Thanks to the program, dozens of cases have been turned over to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, and now people are being prosecuted even if they weren't caught in the act.

10News cameras were rolling as Chula Vista police Officer Elman Gashymov headed out to document some fresh graffiti in a major problem area west of Interstate 805, in what many call old Chula Vista.

After Gashymov photographs the graffiti and documents its location, the information is uploaded to the Graffiti Tracker online database.

"They have a person assigned to sort through all the pictures that we upload," said Gashymov.

Otay Ranch resident Ingrid Velasquez told 10News, "If they do get a conviction or a lead on one symbol, then they can tie it all together and make a more effective case."

Velasquez is the president of a homeowner's association in family friendly Otay Ranch, where as in the Eastlake area, tagging is becoming a major concern for those who own property.

Velasquez and many others are relying on Graffiti Tracker's abilities to deter future tagging.

"Nobody's going to want to buy a home in a community that's filled with graffiti," said Velasquez.

Before March 2011, graffiti vandalism in Chula Vista was rarely investigated, unless people were literally caught in the act

However, that is not the case anymore.

Over the past two years, more than 20 cases have been prosecuted by the South Bay district attorney, dozens of misdemeanor and felony charges have been handed down and tens of thousands of dollars in restitution being recovered.

Chula Vista police are just one of several law enforcement agencies in the county using Graffiti Tracker.

Citizens can also help by reporting any graffiti they see.

For more information, click here.

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