Park’s Crime Is ‘Nonexistent’ Thanks to Video

Using a four-camera wireless video surveillance system, the Hawthorne Police Department in Southern California has made crime “virtually nonexistent” in a 6.2-acre city park, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The department aimed to reduce alcohol violations, marijuana use and drug dealing, truancy and vandalism in Eucalyptus Park.

The cameras, which were installed in April, send real-time images to via wireless transmission to the station. Several computers at the station are connected to the feed via a secure connection that allows officers to monitor park activity.

The effect that video cameras have on crime is still up for debate, and civil liberty advocates have decried the presence of government cameras as a Big Brother tactic. But in Hawthorne, police contend, the results at the park have been amazing.

“Crime is basically nonexistent there,” Lt. Jim Royer told the newspaper. “Most remarkable thing I’ve seen in 27 years in law enforcement.”

For the most part, Royer said, the variety of crimes at the park was alcohol violations, marijuana use and drug dealing, truancy and vandalism. The most serious crimes, he said, occurred when people using the skate park were robbed of skateboards or iPods.

Still, there were enough problems that Royer would rotate police cars into the park every hour from 3 p.m. when school let out until 9 or 10 p.m.

If police receive a call about a problem at the park, officers can use the cameras to take a look before sending a car. Two cameras are in fixed positions, and two have pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) capability. Video is stored on hard drives.

The cameras were donated by Iron Sky, a video surveillance company based in suburban Houston. Hawthorne is getting bids to place cameras in three other parks. In four to six months, the department hopes to have the cameras hooked up to monitors in patrol cars.

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