Sunday, May 1, 2011

Parks Installs Cameras To Help Fight Crime It Apparently Doesn't Even Know Exists

A pole-mounted camera in Fort Tryon Park.

I'll be watching you. A pole-mounted camera in Fort Tryon Park. (Photo: David Handschuh/ NY Daily News) With crime in parks up a whopping 24% last year according NYPD statistics, the Parks Department has been increasing relying on the use of cameras in parks in an effort to deter crime. However apparently not everyone was aware of the increase in crime. Testifying at a City Council Parks oversight hearing last week, when asked if crime had risen, First Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Liam Kavanaugh - the agency's number two - replied "no."


Vandals, drug-dealers and muggers beware: Electronic eyes are watching you.

The Parks Department has mounted about 20 cameras across the city in an effort to thwart after-hours crime. The cameras at city parks detect motion and respond with a blinding flash of light and a booming recorded warning, according to the NY Daily News.

"Your picture has been taken for suspicious activity by the NYPD!" the recording bellows.

Corey Blackburn who was walking his two daschunds at Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights about 7 p.m. last Sunday said the cameras and the recording spooked him and his dogs.

"They freaked out," Blackburn, 40, said of the pooches, Eartha and Maximo.

Blackburn, who has lived in the neighborhood about a decade, said his dogs nearly dragged him down a set of stairs that lead to the bottom of the park.

"I felt like my civil rights were violated," he said, noting that there were no signs warning parkgoers they could be photographed. "It was disturbing....I could have broken my neck."

A Daily News reporter visited the park earlier this week and confirmed there were no warning signs. The city affixed warning signs about the pole-mounted cameras - only after a News inquiry. The Parks Department officials said someone had taken down the sign.

A pole-mounted camera in Macombs Dam Park, Bronx.
(Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

Blackburn, who complained to the New York Civil Liberties Union, said he understands safety concerns, but also worried about what he called an invasion of privacy.

"If it goes off when the park is closed, I don't have a problem with that," he said. "But it got me at 7 p.m."

A Parks spokesman said the 7 p.m. setting was left over from the winter when it was dark at that hour. It has since been readjusted to go off later. The park closes at 1 a.m.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said her office was investigating Blackburn's complaint.

"It sounds bizarre and creepy and we're looking into it," Lieberman said.

The Parks Department said the cameras have helped stem after-hours crime in city parks, with the first one going up in Manhattan's Highbridge Park in the spring of 2008. The Fort Tryon camera went up a few months ago.

City officials said the cameras can be moved around to problem locations based on need. They've been at Central Park, Marine Park in Brooklyn, South Beach in Staten Island and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens - among other sites.

Park managers review the tapes regularly and share them with NYPD precincts for review.

"The camera has helped reduce these illicit activities and has improved safety because it serves as an excellent deterrent," Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson said.

Arrest numbers tied to the cameras weren't immediately available.

Not everyone has a problem with the cameras at Fort Tryon Park.

"It's a public spot," said Farrah Mohsin, 25, who visited the park earlier this week. "What are you doing here that's so private? If it's for safety precautions, it's fine."

With Kerry Wills

Crotona Park Nature Center - Broken Security Camera. Three of the center's vandalized cameras remain unusable because the city refuses to allocate the funds to repair or replace them. Park personnel recently prevented a rape in the park according to employees.

Read More:

Parks Department mounting cameras in parks to thwart after-hours crime, but not all are pleased
New York Daily News - May 1, 2011 - By Michael J. Feeney and Bob Kappstatter

1 comment:

  1. Parks Dept seems to have an excuse for everything: Signs were removed, the alarms were set to winter hours. Why can't they just admit to making mistakes and working with the community and not against it?
    If the signs were removed, then they can go and review the security camera recordings and see who removed the signs. I bet they will have an excuse for the tapes not recording at that time as well.