WEST CHATHAM — Years ago, when the town needed to relocate the skateboard park from the Main Street School to a new spot on the airport grounds – and when it was moved again to Volunteer Park – some worried that the new, more remote locations would lead to more vandalism and other mischief. Though that hasn’t been a serious problem, security cameras will soon let town officials keep an eye on the park and the people who use it.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Meredith Fry said at a recent meeting.
Information Technology Director Craig Rowe told the commission that, two years ago, a contractor installed the necessary fiber optic cable there while linking the town hall annex with the transfer station and wastewater plant.
“Over multiple years we had requested funding to put the cameras in place,” he said. Last year, the town approved a $90,000 appropriation to install cameras in various locations, including the public works department, town hall, the fish pier and the skate park. The cameras eyed for the skate park are more advanced than standard security cameras, Rowe said.
“We looked at having an infrared type camera, or a night vision type camera, so that if there were kids in the park at nighttime, we wanted to make sure that we had everything on video,” he said. “We also were looking at a plate reader, which would actually read license plates coming into the park.”
In all, four cameras are planned for Volunteer Park, with one aimed at the skateboard park itself, one watching vehicles entering the driveway, one pointed at the back parking area, and one that captures the ball fields in back.
“As much as we can, we’re going to try and capture the playground as well, just in case,” Rowe told the commission. Next month, the cable will be installed to a small shed that will house switching equipment for the cameras. Ideally, the work will take place by the second week of December, he said. In all, the cameras cost around $15,000.
In addition to himself, Rowe said the cameras will be accessible by the parks and recreation department and the police dispatcher.
Tobin said the parks and recreation commission first proposed security cameras for the skateboard park when it was moved off the Main Street School site, now the community center.
“They thought it would be a good idea,” he said. “We won’t be necessarily monitoring it all the time in real time, but if there are incidents, we can certainly look back at it.”
Rowe said the system should be useful for the police department, which already includes the skate park in its evening and overnight patrols.
“If they do get a call from a resident saying there’s some things going on down there, the police dispatcher will be able to pull up the camera and take a look and see if it warrants sending somebody down there,” he said.
Deputy Police Chief Michael Anderson said officers are not called to the skateboard park frequently. In the last five years, there have been fewer than 25 calls at Volunteer Park. Three were for suspicious vehicles parked overnight, two were for loose animals, three were for noise bylaw violations, two were for drug or alcohol violations, six were for after-hours use, four were for injuries, three were for vandalism, and there was one reported assault.
Should a crime occur there, the police will be provided with any recordings of the incident. Anderson said there have been times in the past when town-owned cameras have captured criminal activity. Before security cameras were installed there, there was some costly vandalism at the solar installation at the transfer station, and Anderson said had cameras been available at the time, it would have provided valuable evidence.
Anderson said his preference would be that the town install a sign at the park alerting people that the park is under video surveillance, “to advise the public prior to entering the property. The Monomoy Regional Middle School signage is a good example,” he said.