Santa Paula Times

Council approves high resolution cameras for city park crime fighting

September 20, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

Santa Paula will use special park funds to setup a series of high-resolution security cameras in public parks in an effort to deter crime as well as prosecute criminals.

The City Council unanimously approved spending up to $100,000 for the cameras at the September 16 meeting, an amount that will purchase up to 15 cameras.

City Manager Jaime Fontes noted the council was being asked to “do something innovative, cutting edge,” by purchasing the cameras from special funds usually targeted for enhancement and preservation of parks. With rising criminal activity Fontes said the cameras would “bring our parks back” by reducing unlawful activity.

“We are short on manpower,” in the police department, “a reflection of our budget,” that is “on track” to being corrected.

The monitoring program can provide many eyes on many areas without an ongoing outlay of funds and in a timely manner; the council was told that what would take numerous police officers three hours to patrol could be done in 30 minutes using the surveillance video.

Fontes’ written report noted, “The mere presence of video surveillance cameras can act as a powerful crime deterrent,” and “Individuals are less likely to commit a crime if they suspect that they are being monitored,” by what Fontes said could be a trained cadet or reserve officer from a desk.

The constitutional right to privacy does not come into play with cameras placed in public places and those the city would utilize could be set to screen out windows in nearby residences. 

The cameras, each powered by a solar panel and wireless transmitting antennas, are portable and can be reinstalled in a new location if needed.

Cameras are a highly-effective tool for police said Councilman Bob Gonzales, the city’s former police chief, who noted a long-ago murder of a Main Street merchant that could have been solved if cameras were in place.   

City IT Director Chris Thompson and consultant David Mitchell of Pro 911 Support Systems explained the system as well as the results from cameras of varying quality.

Modern security cameras come with an array of powerful technology and can be used to monitor crowds as well as “track” people in large groups based on their movements.  

Zooming capabilities can capture the details of an image from far away including facial features and license plate numbers, as demonstrated by cameras placed on City Hall that monitored Veterans Park for comparison purposes.

Thompson told the council that cameras would be placed in different locations at various venues including Railroad Plaza, Mill, Obergon, Veterans Memorial, Teague and Las Piedras parks, Fagan Barranca and the Bike Path. 

Fontes said the cameras could also be used for emergency crowd control, to help locate missing children and adults, and even by the community service department to observe users of soccer fields. Downtown business owners have also expressed interest in partnering with the city on surveillance cameras. Since the equipment is portable Fontes said cameras could also be used to monitor construction projects.

Fontes staff report stated, “Early detection can lead to mime prevention,” a typo he recognized, “even though mimes creeped me out.... “

During the future agenda item portion of the meeting Councilman Martin Hernandez noted that although the new technology is “phenomenal with regards to security, I’m still hearing concerns in the community,” regarding rising crime.

Hernandez commended Police Chief Steve McLean for his “aggressive approach” and asked that the council receive an update on SPPD issues and crime fighting in the city.