Dr Lella Nouri

Dr Lella Nouri, who developed the app with her team (Image: reTHINK PR)

Leading social scientist from Swansea University, Dr Lella Nouri and her team, have developed a new app which revolutionises the way communities can track and report hate graffiti, all with the aim of understanding tensions within a community, and building intervention programmes to eradicate the issues.

A first-of-its-kind reporting system, the StreetSnap app will soon be available for use across all local authorities in Wales and England. The app is currently being trialled in Bridgend, and was created in partnership with the Legal Innovation Lab Wales and Bridgend County Council with funding through the Welsh Government SMART Partnership programme, putting the Welsh Government’s Anti-racism Action Plan into practice.

Developed for use by police, youth workers, cleaning operatives, council staff, housing and education officials, StreetSnap allows its users to photograph hateful graffiti and report it instantly to the relevant authorities. Street cleaning teams are notified straight away, coming along to the site and removing hateful signs.

Counter-terrorism police officers also receive the data, alongside youth workers and social services, in order to analyse the information and take the necessary actions. Interventions can include youth education sessions in schools, youth groups, and social clubs, aiming to understand the motivation behind the hateful graffiti and encourage those creating it to consider their actions more closely.

Long-term, it is hoped these intervention efforts – combined with efficient removal - will lead to the eradication of visual hate crime.

Dr Lella Nouri, Associate Professor of Criminology at Swansea University, said: “StreetSnap aims to get to the heart of community tensions: we can use graffiti to understand what issues may be arising within communities, and as many local councils are mandated to remove hate graffiti within a 24-72 hour timeframe, we had a clear focus on cleaning up the streets.

“Through this trial, we’ve found that engaging with young people on the topic of graffiti often reveals their lack of awareness about its meaning. For example, in Maesteg we saw multiple ‘KKK’ signs graffitied ¾ but when asked about it, many people did not know the significance of the sign, and simply saw it as a negative, hateful thing to tag. Without StreetSnap, we may never have had these conversations, nor would we have been able to dig deeper to uncover the true intention behind the graffiti.”

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.

Inspector Richard Gardiner, from South Wales Police’s Community Safety Partnership, said: “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.”

Professor Ryan Murphy, Executive Dean and Pro Vice Chancellor of Swansea University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences said: “StreetSnap exemplifies the efforts at Swansea University to ensure our research has real-world, real-time impact on society. Dr Nouri deserves all the accolades coming her way for her tireless efforts to support community resilience to hate.”

StreetSnap will be available for use in local authorities across Wales and England from January 2024.

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