By mid-summer, the first park cameras should be snapping pictures at downtown’s Brackett Park.
Its aim is to deter vandals from damaging city property or at least catch them in the act so that police officers have a better shot at tracking down the culprits.
The $26,000 security cameras, which are slated for installation at other city parks later, are one way that officials are trying to stem a growing wave of vandalism that is costing taxpayers thousands of dollars annually.
In recent days alone, vandals have painted on the pump house and broken lights at Rockwell Park and kicked out spokes on the footbridge on Memorial Boulevard, officials said.
“We’re trying to keep up with all that,” said Park Director Ed Swicklas. “It’s an endless battle.”
The cameras are a new high-tech way to boost the odds for officials trying to win the fight.
Swicklas said they’ll be mounted on a tall pole with a direct line of sight back to City Hall so that a web-based system can capture the images regularly.
“This is, I guess, one of the state-of-the-art ones,” Swicklas said.
Officials are planning more cameras to combat vandalism at Rockwell Park and on the boulevard, with other parks likely to follow in years to come if the method proves helpful.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said that vandalism is “a growing problem” across town and that steps have to be taken.
He said that he would like to explore ways to make it possible to pay out rewards for tipsters who turn in vandals without exposing the snitches to exposure through Freedom of Information requests.
Rimcoski said that when the new $500,000 skatepark opens this fall, the city might want to consider closing it for “a week or 10 days” every time someone vandalizes it.
That would give the skateboarders a strong incentive to protect the city’s investment, the councilor said.
Swicklas has said he believes that skateboarders will do a good job keeping an eye on the course because they already have more to lose than anyone if something is damaged there.
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