Using mapping software, Taos police target graffiti in town

Taos police are using mapping software to build an exhaustive database of graffiti in the area. The town and local partners now plan to use the data in an effort to clean up and combat vandalism

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Taos police are using mapping software to build an exhaustive database of graffiti in the area. The town and local partners now plan to use the data in an effort to clean up and combat vandalism

“This is all a community effort,” said Taos Police Chief Ken Koch. “The [geographic information systems] department is taking reports from city employees to put a pin on a map and detect where graffiti is more prominent.”

Taos police were galvan-ized by spray-painted messages in Kit Carson Park that named and threatened law enforcement agents three months ago. Officers have since been joined by other municipal and county em-ployees in cataloging instan-ces of vandalism.

“We realized we had an issue here,” Koch said. “We instituted some new procedures to catalog and map graffiti around town. The data is now being shared between local government agencies and will be used to launch a new graffiti abatement effort on Saturday (April 20).

Volunteers will gather at the town of Taos Facilities Department at 10 a.m. before descending on Camino de la Merced between Paseo del Pueblo Sur and Salazar to paint over graffiti. “The one thing we are really lacking is a volunteer base,” Koch said, adding that the town is seeking a part-time volunteer to manage the program.

“Because of budget reductions, we do not have resources anymore to provide this as a government service,” Koch said.

A new voluntary effort would assist overstretched municipal crews in performing graffiti abatement.

Taos police have made three arrests in as many months for graffiti. The crime, Koch said, is typically one of opportunity.

“They are trying to claim territory,” Koch said of taggers connected to local gangs. Stencils have also been spotted around Taos but, the police chief noted, they are more often the work of self-styled street artists.

“They are looking for an opportunity to display their art. Either way, it is a crime of opportunity,” Koch said.

The town requires property owners to remove graffiti within one week before assessing a charge for town staff to clean the site.

The effort has been coordinated with the state Department of Transportation, U.S. Postal Service and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative. Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware have donated paintbrushes and other supplies. Inmates from the county’s adult and juvenile detention centers will assist in the cleanup.

“It has really been a labor of love,” Koch said. “We have just been waiting for the perfect day to get people to come out and pick up the paintbrush.”

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