Historic England Harnesses AI to Fight Rising Graffiti Vandalism at Heritage Sites

Historic England Harnesses AI to Fight Rising Graffiti Vandalism at Heritage Sites

Historic England is taking a bold step into the future of heritage preservation with an avant-garde project that employs artificial intelligence (AI) to thwart graffiti vandalism at historic sites. The urgency of this initiative is underscored by a 9% surge in graffiti incidents reported by Ecclesiastical Insurance over the last year. This AI-driven pursuit aims not only to identify vandals by their unique tags but also to trace their movements and scrutinize the origins of their paint supplies.

The recent desecration of Linlithgow Palace and Rochester Castle illustrates the gravity of such defacements which inflict not just physical damage but also profound emotional distress on communities. Eradicating graffiti from age-old edifices is a formidable challenge; the paint often permeates the stonework, leaving a permanent scar. Mark Harrison, the head of heritage crime strategy at Historic England, envisions an AI akin to apps that discern natural elements like flora and minerals, which could similarly recognize the signature styles and palette choices of graffiti artists.

By allying with paint manufacturers and retailers, the endeavor seeks to pinpoint the exact brands utilized in vandalism, potentially curtailing the accessibility of these products to offenders. Prof Robin Bryant of Canterbury Christ Church University, an expert in AI, lends his expertise to the project, which also examines AI’s aptitude in detecting stolen lead from church roofs. Sites like Charterhouse Heritage Park are beleaguered by recurrent vandalism, and while Historic England offers training to combat graffiti, the ordeal is laborious and expensive. Integrating AI with established community initiatives such as Heritage Watch heralds an innovative strategy to combat heritage crimes and safeguard our invaluable historical landmarks.

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