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Bridgend at the helm of pioneering project to tackle hate graffiti

Sergeant Daniel Parry of South Wales Police.

Bridgend County Borough Council is embarking on a ground breaking project to address hate graffiti across the county borough, through the use of the newly developed StreetSnap App from Swansea University.

The initiative positions the council and its partners at the forefront in aligning with Welsh Government’s Anti-racist Wales Action Plan to create a “Wales where everyone is respected and valued and where we can enjoy and celebrate our differences”.  The project is funded by a SMART Partnership between Swansea University, Bridgend County Borough Council, and Welsh Government.  At this stage, the StreetSnap App will be used by practitioners from across the Bridgend Community Safety Partnership.

Developed in collaboration with Legal Innovation Lab Wales, the app has many features, but primarily it allows users to take and upload images of offensive graffiti to a live database of graffiti incidents.  Through this upload, the precise location and time will be automatically recorded, and users will be able to add additional information.  This data will be reported to relevant departments and partners, the visual will be removed within 48 hours, and information will be stored on a database.  This database will be accessible to high level administrative staff with varying degrees of access, who can subsequently analyse the data.

Analysis of the stored data will offer insights about specific areas, including any issues, patterns or trends that may be emerging.  Any identified problems can then be addressed by community cohesion professionals through engagement with the communities involved.

Matthew Rowlands, Youth and Community Project Worker in Bridgend County Borough, explains how the app is set to serve a purpose within the community.  He said:  “As street-based youth workers, we are seeing incidents of graffiti across the county borough.  The development of the StreetSnap App would be extremely useful for us to capture images of the offending graffiti and upload for a quick response for its removal, subsequently reducing offence to the public.  The app will also help us to understand some of the potential issues that exist in particular areas and communities, allowing us to develop responses and engagement to work effectively with young people.”

Currently, there is no existing tool available within the police or elsewhere to record, monitor, and utilise data related to hate visuals in the community, either nationally or globally.

We are delighted to be working with Swansea University, Bridgend County Borough Council, and the Welsh Government on this exciting new project in Bridgend.

This initiative will not only ensure that we clean up and remove unsightly, damaging hate graffiti but also, it will enable us to record and document what and where these issues are taking place to assist us in preventing this blight on our communities.

This technology is providing an opportunity for our local Neighbourhood Policing and Community Safety Partnership officers to target our enforcement and engagement efforts.

Inspector Richard Gardiner, from South Wales Police’s Community Safety Partnership

Dr Lella Nouri, associate professor at Swansea University and founder of the StreetSnap App, said: “Working with Bridgend County Borough Council on the pilot of StreetSnap is really exciting.  The council and its partners are pioneering work in this space and making room for better management of community tensions and producing evidence-led intervention work.  The teamwork observed throughout the council and its partners has been exceptional.  Bridgend County Borough Council is becoming known as one of the most forward-thinking boroughs for tackling hate crime and leading the way in helping the Welsh Government in its vision for an Anti-Racist Wales by 2030.”

Councillor Neelo Farr, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Wellbeing, said: “Establishing a sound knowledge base in the area of extremist graffiti and visual hate crime is pivotal if we are to address it and work towards celebrating a culturally rich Wales.

“Bridgend County Borough Council is very proud, not to mention excited, about piloting the Streetsnap App and in leading the way to support Welsh Government’s Anti-racist Wales Action Plan.  We are already being used as an exemplar in the Anti-Racist Wales Crime and Justice Implementation Plan 2022, and the project has also been recognised as ‘good practice’ by the CONTEST Cymru board.

“Training for practitioners from across our partnerships has begun and we are more than thrilled!”

The app is being launched formally in January in Bridgend County Borough and is being considered by local authorities across the UK, including a central London council.