Mobile App Outpacing Other Methods of Reporting Graffiti Tags in San Jose

In its first six months, the San Jose Clean app for Smart Phones has become the No. 1 method of reporting graffiti tags to the contractor hired to remove them.

San Jose Clean app

From December until June, residents sent 4,102 requests for graffiti cleanup using the app available for the iPhone or Android compared to 2,989 requests received by telephone calls for the entire fiscal year — June to June.

The popularity of the new reporting method was one of many findings in a semi-annual report on anti-graffiti and anti-litter efforts reviewed by the San Jose City Council at its September 25 meeting.

The report gave a glowing evaluation of Graffiti Protective Coating’s work since the city contracted with the firm in July to save money and improve service. Outsourcing the graffiti services has saved the city about $613,000 a year, increased community participation, reached cleanup goals and received high marks from customers.

The city introduced the San Jose Clean app in January. Using the app, iPhone and Android users can select the type of blight (graffiti, litter), identify its location with and address or GPS map, and take a photo of what they’re reporting. They can add a written or audio comment and provide contact information to request a status update to the report. The request is then transmitted to the nearest graffiti removal technician in the field. When the graffiti or blight is removed, the resident is notified electronically.

Volunteer paints over graffiti.

In January, 142 reports were submitted through San Jose Clean app, but by June, the number had grown to 1,370. Calls into the 24/7 Call Center numbered 544 in June, but had dropped to 129 a year later.

According to the report, delivered by Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Director Julie Edmonds-Mares, GPC concentrated on two zones that comprise parts of Council Districts 3, 5, 7 and 8. GPC worked in those districts to repaint walls and other tagged areas in matching colors to discourage repeated hits. From July 1, to June 30, GPC and the Anti-Graffiti/Anti-Litter staff members:

  • Painted over 2 million square feet of graffiti and areas surrounding the tags.
  • Removed graffiti within 24 hours of being reported for 98 percent of the time
  • Enlisted the help of 3,600 volunteers who paint out graffiti in their neighborhood

GPC is focusing on two more zones and continuing to clean up graffiti in the other two.

Councilmembers Xavier Campos and Ash Kalra challenged the numbers, calling the information that 2 million square feet of graffiti was removed misleading.

“How much of that was actually graffiti tags and how much was covering a whole wall,” he asked.

In the area of enforcement, the partnership between San Jose Police Department and the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force led to the arrest of prolific taggers who were responsible for an estimated $150,000 in damages to freeways and buildings, the report said.

Other partnerships had not been so successful, noted Councilman Sam Liccardo frustrated by huge swaths of graffiti on freeway and railway bridges that are left for months. City and GPC workers do not have the authority to clean up graffiti on property managed by CalTrans, Valley Transportation Authority or Union Pacific.

“Our residents don’t care” who is responsible, Liccardo said. “They just want the problem resolved.”

Among his suggestions in a memo approved by the other council members, are posting signs on city property with numbers to call CalTrans or other responsible agencies so that residents can call directly to report graffiti and whether more juvenile offenders can be used to clean graffiti.

“I’m hearing good things out in the community,” Liccardo said of GPS’s performance. “So far, so good. I know it was a bumpy start but it’s improved considerably.”