Whilst some may see graffiti as a work of art or a creative outlet, the sad reality is that, left unchecked, this type of anti-social behaviour can have serious implications for the sense of well being of those who live and work in the areas blighted by this problem. You have to ask the question “would you like a vandal to spray paint on your house?” By Ian Moore, Managing Director, Elmdene International Limited.
Counting the cost
Graffiti has a very serious economic impact. It has the potential to deter much needed investment and place a heavy financial burden on businesses and already stretched local authorities to clean-up offending areas. To put graffiti into context, it is estimated that local authorities across the UK have to spend over £1 billion a year dealing with this perennial issue.
So what can be done to address this problem? Historically, local authorities, transport operators, businesses and others have tried a number of approaches to stem the tide. One method has simply been to deploy additional physical measures such as fencing to prevent offenders accessing certain hotspots. However, this is not always an answer as many of the locations where graffiti is found tend to be public areas, or very large spaces.
In recent years, other solutions have started to come to the fore. Anti-graffiti measures such as special coatings for walls are now being widely applied. However even this is not foolproof. Although it helps avoid re-painting or removal, there is still the initial cost to consider and the need for cleaning to take place following an incident. This obviously has additional financial implications given the prevalence of repeated strikes and increases the challenge to taggers.
Drawing a line under attacks
From the evidence above it is clear that there is a pressing need in the marketplace for a proactive alternative, one which provides the opportunity to deliver an alert and warn-off offenders before they can leave their mark on a wall – the point when costs can really start to rack-up. At Elmdene we have been determined to address this capability gap head-on by implementing advanced acoustic detection technology to offer the ability to automatically identify the distinctive acoustic signature of an aerosol-propelled spray paint.
The outcome of an extensive Research and Development effort, is the award-winning compact Merlin Graffiti Detector (MGD-S). It has the potential to be deployed in a wide range of graffiti-prone locations and offers a number of flexible solutions from sounding an alarm in seconds, alerting an Alarm Receiving Centre or being integrated as a detector in a security monitored CCTV solution. Therefore the MGD-S can be overt and used as a deterrent or covert to catch the vandals.
So impressive is the technology and the application options that the Merlin graffiti detector won the award for ‘Intruder Alarm or Exterior Deterrent Product of the Year’ at this year’s IFSEC Security Industry awards.
The sophisticated algorithm used to distinguish specific sounds parallels what we have witnessed in the CCTV world with the roll-out of intelligent video content analysis. By focusing on acoustics however, the Merlin graffiti detector opens up a whole new area of analytics which, by its nature, is not dependent on the prevailing lighting conditions for a successful activation. The key point here is that this makes the detector equally effective day or night.
Anatomy of an acoustic detector
Looking in more detail at the Merlin graffiti detector, the compact, low visibility, MGD-S is designed to be wall-mounted, with the range of detection tied in to the installed height. At 4.5 metres, for example, an individual unit will be able to protect up to 7.5 metres over a 120 degree field of coverage below the sensor. Multiple devices can be linked together to protect larger areas.
When it comes to the advanced acoustic detection capabilities enabled in the unit, the Merlin MGD-S takes advantage of so-called ‘phase lock’ technology to maximise reliability and allow it to pick-up aerosol paint being sprayed in, typically, 5-8 seconds.
So to conclude, with the development of acoustic detection techniques, we are witnessing a real step-change in the way that the whole issue of graffiti is being approached. There is now an opportunity to fight back in the battle against graffiti by deploying an automatic, intelligent and cost effective system like Merlin to detect and stop attacks before unsightly damage is done – rather than relying on special coatings or physical measures – and, crucially, to make offenders think twice about targeting the area again.
A demonstration video focused on the Merlin graffiti detector is available to view on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/ElmdeneInternational