Modesto Installing Cameras to Catch Graffiti Vandals

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MODESTO --

Modesto police and code enforcement will partner up over the next four months to install dozens of surveillance cameras around the city, in part to catch people responsible for covering Modesto's streets with graffiti.

Graffiti is an unfortunate mark of the city of Modesto.  A drive outside of the downtown area reveals spray-painted walls and tagged street signs in virtually every direction -- vandalized concrete lines Highway 99.

But the city, ironically known as the filming location of the classic movie "American Graffiti," is no longer standing by.

"The tagging just isn't the brand we want to be," said Modesto's Economic Development Director Cindy Birdsill.

It is difficult, Birdsill says, to leave a mark on new businesses and tourists when the city is all marked up itself.

Policing it, however, is an entirely different challenge.

"I think it's very difficult to catch the young people who do it because they do it at night and they run away," Birdsill said.

Police will install 32 surveillance cameras in areas most hit with graffiti, seven of which will be mobile and will rotate locations, according to a Modesto police lieutenant.

The aim is to identify and eventually catch those behind it.

"Let's clean it up. It's time to clean up Modesto and put Modesto back on the map," said Manuel Furtado, a lifelong Modesto resident.

Furtado says the enforcement effort couldn't come sooner.

"It's always been a big problem. We're in the valley, and it seems like we just get that here in the valley," said Furtado.

The city also developed an app, called "Tag, we're on it!" through which residents can take pictures of graffiti, enter a location and send the information directly to the police department's graffiti cleanup crew.

Even one large vandalized wall the crew cleans could cost thousands of dollars.

"We think it's going to be a wonderful opportunity for us to make our community look a lot better," said Birdsill.

City officials could not give an estimate for how much the camera system will cost.

The cameras will also monitor the city's water supply locations.

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