A Christchurch man has developed a smartphone app which is helping to make a big reduction in the amount of graffiti in the South Island city.
The app, Tagstoppers, allows people to take a photo of graffiti and quickly have it added to a log which is sent to clean-up crews.
Bill Johnson says he grew frustrated at constantly painting over tags in his neighbourhood only for them to quickly reappear and wanted to do something which would have a longer-term effect.
After failing to find anything locally or internationally which would allow him to build up a record of tags, he used his background in web development to create the Tagstoppers web page and smart phone application.
Mr Johnson said once people have downloaded the free app, they just need to take a photo of the tag and enter some basic information to report it.
"The app will capture that location based on gps co-ordinates, it assigns an address to it and then submits it to a database on a website. Once it goes there the tag locations get forwarded to me and the city council, so it makes it really easy for anyone to report they have a bit of graffiti in their area."
The information on the website is then used by volunteer groups and the Christchurch City Council to decide where they will direct their clean-up efforts.
One of the volunteer groups that uses the information is Sunrise Rotary. Chairperson Sharon Wooding said many people want to do something to help rid the city of graffiti and the app makes that very easy.
"Its our city - if we want it, we need to earn it. We need to tell people that this is how we want our city to be. Bill has just given us the opportunity to be part of that, and it is very empowering. Anyone can do it, even if they can't lift a paint brush they can definitely click a photo," she said.
The council's community and safety manager, Phil Shaw, said there has been a big reduction in the number of tags around the earthquake-hit city in the past year, and Tagstoppers has had a major role in achieving this.
Mr Shaw said the council spends about $800,000 a year removing graffiti - and anything that could reduce that cost should be encouraged.
"Any and all avenues of reporting will be beneficial to the team and the council as a whole, so that we can direct our services very effectively," he said.
The council, along with Sunrise Rotary, also provide paint for anyone who wants to remove graffiti themselves.
Bill Johnson said by using the Tagstoppers programme people can ensure the tag is recorded so that a better picture can be built up of all the damage each tagger is responsible for.
"When we catch them for one tag, the penalty might not be that great. But when can you say this person has done these 52 other tags too, then we can make a case to the court that this is not an isolated incident. They are doing sustained damage to our community and that needs to be reflected in their punishment."
Mr Johnson said his system is currently used only in Christchurch, but he would welcome it being picked up elsewhere in the country.