Are Yakima's graffiti cameras an effective tool?

Are Yakima's graffiti cameras an effective tool?
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Nearly 20 graffiti cameras around Yakima act as the eye-in-the sky for police.

The cameras are installed in places where police receive the most complaints. However, with graffiti on the rise, KIMA wanted to know if the cameras are doing their job.

I learned the cameras do help police, but it isn't a perfect system.

"If we put a camera up and we don't check them for months, we might have took pictures of suspects but it's not going to do anybody any good," said officer Jaime Gonzalez, who operates the cameras.

Police look at the surveillance only if someone reports graffiti in the area.

Gonzalez says police rely on you to tell them when you spot fresh graffiti. Only then do they review the cameras to see if they can identify a suspect.

Police say the giant exterior of a building on South 2nd street was a haven for graffiti until they installed two graffiti cameras nearby. Now, the building remains clean. It's one location where the cameras do prove effective.

Gonzalez says police carefully chose where to place the cameras, because it takes a team of workers to install the technology.

Martha Turley lives in one of the graffiti hot spots on First Street.

"It's a good way to catch people, but it's just going to take a lot of time," Martha said.

Gonzalez says police work with a limited number of cameras in an area with a widespread problem.

I asked how many more cameras officers might need to catch more graffiti vandals in your area.

"I don't know, I don't have an ideal number. More would be good," Gonzalez said.

A surveillance system that does work...when all of the pieces fall into place.

The cameras cost about $5,000 a piece. They were all paid for with a grant. Police say it doesn't cost much to maintain them.