Graffiti Buster

grafitti buster app screenshots

The city of Albany announced a new mobile app today: Graffiti Buster -- a way to report graffiti to the city. It's available for both the iPhone and Android.

The app is the creation of Troy Web Consulting's Tim Varney. You might remember Tim's name -- he also created the Albany: Then and Now history app, as well as the map of the vacant buildings in the city.

Tim explained to us how the app came about, and a little bit about how it works...

From an email exchange with Tim:

The idea was born out of the constant confusion that was present on the Hudson-Park listserv. There were repeated questions as to who you should report graffiti to in the city of Albany. We were brainstorming at work one day (Troy Web Consulting) and there happened to be a rash of tagging that week. The idea came up to create a streamlined process for dealing with it by leveraging the public's smartphones. Mark Poskanzer and I approached the city and told them what we wanted to do. They were very supportive from the beginning.
We put together the app and sent some volunteers out into the neighborhood with their phones to document graffiti. In the first night, they found 17 tags in the neighborhood of Center Square and reported them with the app. The reports go directly to the APD and [Department of General Services]. They receive the GPS coordinates, a user entered address or description, and a photograph of the tag for their files. That was about a week ago, and my walk through the neighborhood tonight revealed that most of them are already cleaned.

Tim says the plan is to see how the app's used, make improvements, and they maybe roll it out to other cities, as well.

It's good to see the city being open to new ways for people to file reports and provide feedback. We hope this is just a first step for the city. It'd be great to move toward an overarching system to collect all sorts or reports/complaints/suggestions -- and then have them tagged, tracked, and (the hope would be) resolved. Software developers use systems like that, as do companies for customer service. And some cities have built similar services -- NYC being a prime example.

Albany: Then and Now Tim also gave us an update on the Then and Now app -- which matches up historical photos with the physical place where the photographers stood to take the photos, allowing to compare the old with the new. Tim says they're working to expand the app, and presenting the app at an upcoming conference of state public historians.

Earlier on AOA: Troy Night Out app


For people who like vigilantism *and* scavenger hunts!

Wait....graffiti isn't edgy urban art anymore? You mean it's a crime?

Good app...
Tim, is there a website where we can see that list, and eventually make sure legitimate street art is not going to get erased due to, let's say, "disagreeable neighbors"? I'd like to be able to talk to the city preemptively before coming home to a blank wall.

Speaking of graffiti, does anyone know what the letters AFPO sprayed on many utility poles are? Is this innocent graffiti, something to mark a gang's turf, or some designation by the city department of public works? I mainly see them in the Pine Hills area and have often wondered.

this is just asking for dong shots to be sent to cops

@Amy: so this is weird, I read your comment earlier and I was going to take a photo of that very same AFPO "sign" on my utility gas pipe outside, then to link it from this post... but somebody removed it, likely this week. I can see the smeared paint. Maybe somebody used the app.

Sadly, the app may or may not work with newer phones. Albany seems to be paying attention here as well:

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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