Wired - October 2003
Graffiti is art. Throughout the world evocative urban hieroglyphics shine fluorescent and vibrant from stucco walls, freeway overpasses, and howling commuter trains. Artists with monikers like “Exist” and “Cornbread” approach legendary status within an underground culture as their work becomes illicitly ubiquitous. But each year, graffiti causes $8 billion in damage nationwide. It lowers property values and can lead to theft and violence. Graffiti is a crime.
Arthur Devine, father of the gigabyte hard drive, harbors an extreme distaste for graffiti that has driven him to invention. At the behest of civic leaders desperate to stem the Technicolor tide of taggers, Devine created Taggertrap. His futuristic alarm system is an amalgam of wireless sensors, miniature DV cameras, cell phones, and GPS technology that detects the sibilant hiss of aerosol at a range of 200 feet. “The tagger, when he pushes down on the spray can, he’s calling the police,” explains George Lerg, co-founder of Traptec, the Southern California based company responsible for the technology. The “Stinger” model is portable, discreet, and presents an ominous threat to artistic criminals. During recent embryonic field tests in San Diego County, six youth were caught in the act.
The technological revolution is rooted in the free flow of information. Taggertrap’s allure comes from the system’s ability to communicate accurate information instantly. Lost in the quest for cleanliness, however, is the fact that graffiti is simply an alternative and dynamic display of knowledge.