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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 15:59 GMT
Fightback on graffiti front
Graffiti is described as a "blight" by police
Police have identified a new way of targeting graffiti vandals - by catching them practising in their bedrooms.

Officers have been photographing insignia - often called "tags" - left by the artists and compiling them on a powerful computer database.

Using intelligence methods normally reserved for more serious crime, they can establish the identities of the teenagers who might be responsible.

Officers in Barnet, north London, have then raided addresses to find the identity tags of graffiti artists on bedroom walls, and other personal items.

So far 12 offenders have been arrested.

Our longer term aim is to disrupt them so that it all becomes too much hassle and they express themselves in a lawful way

Detective Inspector Paul Anstee

Police have also found photographs taken by artists themselves at the scene of their "artwork".

Detective Inspector Paul Anstee said: "It would be over-optimistic to think that we will find a graffiti den in every offenders room that we visit.

"However, who has ever heard of a graffiti criminal fearing that the police were going to come through their door with a warrant at any moment?"

'Reflected glory'

DI Anstee called graffiti a "blight" on people living in neighbourhoods affected by it and said there was a high level of public support for action to tackle the problem.

He said: "Our understanding is that tagging is an art form in the mind of the creator and that no self-respecting 'artist' is going to leave their insignia around the town for all to see unless it is something to be proud of - accordingly, practice makes perfect.

"Secondly, tag artists like to reflect in their glory and there is even a website where they are doing this."

Potential victims of the graffiti artists are being encouraged to make property less vulnerable by fitting metal lattice shutters and improved lighting.

Barnet Council is also supporting a code of conduct calling on traders to stop selling aerosol spray cans to youngsters.

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See also:

05 Jan 00 | Americas
How to get ahead in graffiti
22 Dec 98 | LATEST NEWS
US sorry for bomb graffiti
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