Graffiti costs rail operators and local governments tens of millions of dollars each year, not only in clean-up costs, but also through thousands of man hours spent on policing and security which rarely yields material results.
David Black, GM and deployment specialist for technology firm Rapid Apprehension Systems (RAS), insists there is a better way forward for cities and infrastructure stuck in the rut of simply removing graffiti and hoping to catch offenders with security and police patrols.
The active life cycle for a typical graffiti offender is four years. On average, the actions of that individual will cost a city or operator $12,000 every year. RAS estimates just 3 per cent of average ‘top 20’ offenders in a given jurisdiction will be stopped without an excessive waste of police resources.
These factors are amplified in the transport space. Speaking from more than 15 years of experience taking on graffiti vandals, Black says vandals who target the transit network are typically hardened, malicious, and well established.
“Cutting their teeth within their local city for many years, they tend to gravitate to rail and road assets, as they look for bigger targets that deliver a ‘rush’ that other targets no longer give them,” Black explains.
“For many offenders, attacking long stretches of sound barriers across road and rail networks is a favoured pastime, as they realise in many cases their work will remain for many months, or even years.”
Black explains that RAS has grown over time in its role as an expert advisor on graffiti, working with cities to build a database of more than 800,000 pieces of graffiti, and developing a strategy of social media tracking on offenders, which has resulted in dozens of live apprehensions.
“About ten years ago we started to have the idea of developing a range of portable equipment which we could actually deploy live-to-site to detect offenders as they off end. The first unit started off the size of a bread box, and over the year’s they’ve shrunk and become faster with extended abilities in zero light scenarios.”
So far RAS’s technology of sensors, cameras and other devices has helped catch more than 300 offenders in the act.
“It’s simply a matter of shifting thinking of how to approach such an issue where existing methods are failing to deliver solid cost-effective results,” Black says. “It’s all about taking the fight to the offenders. Our tools slash the need for thousands of wasted man hours patrolling, sitting off a site, or laying in wait. The equipment does the leg work saving thousands and delivering results.”
A city or operator’s typical network surveillance regime will rely on CCTV.
“The problem with CCTV is you need to have an offender doing what he’s doing, practically 10 feet from the camera, so you can get a good shot for identification – if you know him – or to circulate and hopefully catch him down the track. The success rate is pretty small.
“Our angle is to get teams on site when the offenders are still there.
RAS has worked with dozens of clients, performing more than 80 whole-of-city, rail network field audits, harvesting data and providing analysis to enable the deployment of its smart technology. Once a database has been built and RAS has helped established a top 50 wanted offender list, the company can best determine prime locations for each to be apprehended live on site.
“Whether a client has their own law enforcement analysts, our field work delivers a solid base line to know exactly who the worst offenders are and where we can trigger multiple live apprehensions.”
Micro thermal systems
RAS says its patented range of micro thermal systems has evolved over the past decade to a point where end users are able to deploy them to tackle a range of issues and trigger live attendance arrests of their worst serial offenders or crews.
The technology has been developed with a focus on size, cost, return on investment, range and successful apprehensions.
“Whether it’s a remote section of noise wall, a rail siding or other asset location, the new micro thermal set is unbeatable for what it delivers,” he says.
“We use our equipment in the field every day for all crime types including arson, graffiti, illegal dumping, drug cropping and a host of other issues,” Black says.
Unlike traditional portable cameras, RAS’s micro thermal system needs no ambient or infrared light source. Once triggered, the deployed units have the ability to highlight an unquestionable human figure clearly at 150 metres, and provide live images and video grabs in under 30 seconds to a handset or a traditional control room.
The camera can be triggered by a number of different devices which can be surreptitiously positioned alongside the targeted site.
RAS’s new Cyclops sensors are designed to be small and covert, and allow a linear trigger for the camera with a range of up to 200 metres with one set, or up to 800 metres using pairing sensors. This allows a temporary or semi-permanent deployment at a rail siding as an example where access land or fence lines are breached. A literal forcefield can be set up surrounding a stabled train set to allow for activation of the Micro thermal units.
“All of our new systems are even smaller than previous models, are subterranean for easy burial and disguise and can be deployed rapidly.
“Our sensor options triggering the Micro thermal can be 170 metres from the camera allowing valuable minutes for local law enforcement or others to be aware even before offenders have reached their target. This design allows the portable equipment to be 50 or 100 metres from the offenders ensuring the gear is undiscovered while doing its job successfully.”
A more practical solution for operators and cities
The nature of RAS’s methodology means network operators can engage determinedly with their graffiti challenge – but can also welcome adjacent local law enforcement into the fold.
“Adjacent cities are commonly affected by the same shared offenders to the network operators leading to expanded prosecutions,” Black explains. “We have witnessed many successful arrests and prosecutions for hundreds of incidents across multiple victim groups where cohesive collaborations are in play.”
Whether a client wishes to work on a self deployment model or if they wish to utilise RAS’s expansive tracking and deployment services, Black says the outcomes are clear.
“Being designers and makers of the systems we can offer tailoring for specific sites or needs,” he says. “Training is also possible on the technology and operation through to field deployment types, hide designs and monitoring.”
When considering the annual clean-up bill of graffiti and the on-costs for any network operator, outstanding results are often found by thinking outside traditional methods and technologies, Black says.
“Complementing existing technologies in place, our systems will deliver results at the next level in the most remote and darkest locations, facilitating live apprehensions of your worst offenders.”
For a no obligation discussion, contact the team at www.rasystems.com.au/railexpress