City’s mobile app speeding neighborhood graffiti removal


NEIGHBORWEBSJ – In the first six months of its use, a California city’s app for smart phones has become the No. 1 method of reporting graffiti for clean up.

From January 2012, when San Jose, CA’s San Jose Clean app was introduced, until June 2012, residents sent 4,102 requests for graffiti cleanup using app, compared to 2,989 requests received by telephone calls for all of 2011.

In January 2012, the iPhone and Android compatible app, garnered 142 reports. By June 2012, the number had grown to 1,370. Residents telephoned 544 reports in June 2011, but that dropped to 129 in June this year.

The popularity of the new reporting method was a highlight among findings in a Anti-Graffiti And Litter Program Semi-Annual Report on anti-graffiti and anti-litter efforts reviewed by San Jose’s city council at a recent September meeting. San Jose is considered “the Capital of Silicon Valley.”

The report also gave a glowing evaluation of Graffiti Protective Coating, a firm San Jose  hired in July 2011 to save money and improve service.

The graffiti service has saved the city about $613,000 a year, increased community participation, helped achieve cleanup goals and received high marks from users – city officials and residents alike.

Smart phone users with the app select the type of blight (graffiti, litter) spotted and identify its location with an address or global positioning system (GPS) map. They also can take a photo of the blight, add a written or voice comment and provide personal contact information to request status updates on the blight.

Users immediately transmit the information to the nearest graffiti removal technician in the field. When the graffiti or litter is removed, the resident is notified electronically.

The technology minimizes administrative time and costs investigating complaints. GPS pinpointing and photos diminish the need for field staff to verify addresses and issues prior to dispatching work orders.

The app also includes links to city councilmembers, key City of San Jose phone numbers and a tool that allows residents to sign up for anti-blight volunteer opportunities in the city.

San Jose was one of three cities to win a USA Weekend Magazine Make a Difference Day award for the efforts of a city-school-neighborhood collaboration to rid an East San Jose area of graffiti, litter and blight.

Residents can still report graffiti and litter via email at or by calling 866.249.0543 for graffiti and 408.277.3208 for litter.

According to the report, delivered by San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Director Julie Edmonds-Mares, from July 1, 2011, to June 30 2012, 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 98 percent of the time.
  • Enlisted the help of 3,600 volunteers who paint out graffiti in their neighborhood.

Source: “Mobile App Outpacing Other Methods of Reporting Graffiti Tags in San Jose,” by Janice Rombeck, NeighborWebSJ

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