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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

Cameras eye park activity at Shoreland

BY BENJAMIN
ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Shoreland Park in Washington Township is under 24-hour video surveillance.

"But you know, the way the world is today, wouldn't you feel safer?" said Barbara Shaheen, township board chairman and one of the program's initiators. "Probably all parks should have cameras."

The three cameras at the park on 5460 Patriot Drive were up and running on May 31 and cost the city $2,725. The project was contracted out to the Toledo-based company Transtar Security and Technologies.

Many of the program's advocates said the round-the-clock surveillance is not in response to anything in particular but is simply a needed precaution in an increasingly dangerous world.

"The way the world's come to ... nowadays you don't know who's going to be there," said Bryon Macintosh, the township's park and road superintendent. "Things happen - it's a scary world - you read about them, you see it in the news ... you always say, 'Never me,' or, 'Never my area,' but never say never."

Mr. Macintosh said they are not constantly monitoring the cameras or "bird-eyeing" people, but if something specific happens they can go look at up to seven days of footage.

He also said if there are suspicious-looking kids hanging around the park, they can monitor them from a building in the park instead of going directly up to them, which might tip them off.

Some residents and young adults found the cameras slightly disconcerting.

"We have no privacy anymore," said Garrett Henry, 17, who is a senior at Whitmer High School. "There's always cameras looking for somebody doing something."

Police Chief Chris Kaiser said the park has been hit occasionally by vandals.

"Every time we put something new in the park, kids go in there and tear it up and put graffiti all over it,"Chief Kaiser said.

Over the last few years the park's picnic tables have been carved up with vulgarities.

"If you're a parent, you don't want your children to read this stuff," said Mr. Macintosh, who has a 6-year-old daughter.

"My daughter's starting to read and I don't want her asking, 'Daddy, what's that word?' or, 'Why would somebody write that?' "

Various residents said they were skeptical the cameras would prevent vandalism.

"It seems like an awful lot of money to pay for cameras," said township resident Brian Sobczak, who was at the park with his daughter Morgan, 8, for cheerleading practice.

"Kids will be kids," Mr. Sobczak said. "Every park I've ever been to has graffiti and I don't see how cameras are going to prevent that."

Jordan Stagner, 17, said kids don't go to the park to do anything illegal, because that's where the police are.

Mr. Kaiser said officers regularly patrol the park and that the cameras are just an added precaution.

"It's a tool," said Mr. Macintosh. "If you need it, then it's there."

Of all Toledo's 145 parks, only South Toledo's Highland Park has a camera, according to Dennis Garvin, the director of Toledo's Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department.

It was installed in the summer of 2004 at a cost of $6,049 to specifically monitor the skateboard facility there.

Mr. Garvin said vandalism at the facility still occurs and that the daily park maintenance staff regularly checks for and removes graffiti at the site.

"But I think we are able to respond better now," he said. "The camera is a means to identify individuals who do damage to the park. ... It is not designed to be a deterrent. It is designed to be an aid in the investigation."

He said Toledo is not planning to add cameras to any of its parks.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch

at babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050



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