Jefferson Police Consider Mobile Cameras for Parks

The goal would be to deter vandalism and drugs at parks and recreational facilities.

The Jefferson Township police department is looking to purchase and install two mobile cameras in township parks to combat vandalism, as well as drug use and abuse, among teens.

Police Sgt. Paul Castimore, during the council’s budget meeting Wednesday, explained that the cameras, which he said would ideally be placed by Lake Hopatcong and the Milton section of town, are a response to problems the department has been experiencing at Chamberlain Field.

“Parents are calling us, saying cars are coming up, beeping their horns and kids are coming out of the woods,” Castimore said. “They see a hand-to-hand transaction, the kid runs away and the car drives away. This goes on in the two-hour window after school.”

He said that officers have gone into the woods during school hours and found drug paraphernalia, such as baggies and needles.

The wireless cameras, which would be purchased from SecureWatch 24, would transmit over the cellular network and could be viewed by officers on a variety of platforms, from desk computers to their smart phones. Based on a demonstration the company did for the department, Castimore said the camera has high resolution and would allow officers to identify troublemakers.

Council President Richard Yocum said he likes the proposal because vandalism of schools and recreational facilities “ticks me off to no end.” However, he said the township should be careful about technology like this that could make the department seem like “Big Brother,” referring to the fictional literary character often associated with mass surveillance.

As a result, Yocum said he would like to see a list of what exactly the department would and would not be using the cameras for.

Police Chief Kevin Craig said he will check with the Morris County prosecutor’s office to find out what legal restrictions exist in terms of surveillance.

“I know there are issues if sound is involved, like with wire tapping,” Craig said. “I can research that with the prosecutor’s office, get some model policies to make sure we’re in compliance with all the legalities and move forward.”

In addition to helping officers identify problematic activity, Craig said the cameras should help with both deterring criminal behavior and enforcement.

Since the cameras would be mobile, Councilman Robert Birmingham suggested also looking into place-keeping blank boxes to deter negative behavior from people who believe they are being monitored. Castimore said he will get quotes for the blank boxes.

The combined cost for the two cameras is currently listed in the budget at $22,000 but could increase based on the quote Castimore receives for the blank boxes.

concernedcitizen March 03, 2013 at 05:48 PM
"1) People living in a free society have the reasonable expectation that they can be present in public spaces without the fear of government surveillance or tracking. 2) Video cameras are not discrete: they constantly record the innocent, lawful activities of people enjoying our public spaces along with the few illegal acts of the small number of individuals who commit crimes in view of the cameras. 3) Research has shown that video surveillance does not stop or deter crime and is a waste of resources that could be spent on more effective alternatives that reduce crime and protect our privacy, such as community policing." With more details, at http://www.aclu-wa.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Parks%20committee%20%20ACLU%20comments.pdf about a park known for "drugs, booze and prostitution" in Seattle. Here we have Jefferson Township, a field where kids play, and known actor(s) breaking the law at known times, and we want to go with cameras in other areas around town also? What’s next, http://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech-national-security-technology-and-liberty/police-cameras-outside-your-door At least there wasn't another request for another license plate reader. http://www.aclu.org/automatic-license-plate-readers-threat-americans-privacy
Icy Hot March 05, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Concerned... Do you have any case law on LPR's? All you have it a one sided opinion by the ACLU. Not everything they write is law,it's opinion. http://www.mcac.maryland.gov/resources/LPR/LPR_SuccessStories Or http://www.minneapolismn.gov/news/WCMS1P-101897 There are always two sides to a story. I'm sure there will be common ground found on this technology, which will protect our Civil Rights, while assisting law enforcement to apprehend offenders.
concernedcitizen March 06, 2013 at 03:04 PM
There are times that cameras make sense. For instance if aiming a camera at a building entrance or area suspected of vandalism, or even allowing a park to be open at night by protecting public assets without focusing on the innocent people in the area, that can be very valuable. To catch dealers who are known to be at a specific location at a certain time, or to just move a problem somewhere else that doesn’t have cameras, not so valuable. Not just the ACLU, but regarding the License Plate Readers, even the International Chief’s of Police recognize privacy impacts, saying “ lack of regulation can cause the public to fear that the information collected by law enforcement agencies through their utilization of LPR systems might be mismanaged or misinterpreted with real-world consequences. Moreover, the potential misuse of LPR data may expose agencies operating such systems to civil liability and negative public perceptions.” NJ allows retention of LPR data for five years, while Maine limits it to 21 days. Should Jefferson keep videos of you in a park or around your home 5 years? Until there are standards on cameras aimed at the public, just as LPR’s are problematic, we just need to be very careful how the cameras are used, when used, where used, how long video kept, who can see the video, how the access is logged, details of what can be seen, etc. Budget should be the last step. Also, $11K/camera seems high. And what about the annual recurring network fees?
Jessica Puig March 06, 2013 at 05:07 PM
as a 19 year old, and part of the rescue squad (one that has been on multiple over doses), as well as living in that specific neighborhood. I've had those people around me forever. a few years ago they told my 8 year old brother to lie under parked cars. they have lit a fire in my back yard a few years ago. I will be extremely happy if they decide to put up those cameras. I can't go on a hike in my own back yard & take my dog with out making sure he doesn't step in glass or on needles. this shouldn't be over looked anymore. busting them more, will hopefully mean getting the higher up dealers, and letting them know that it is a slap on the hand, going to rehab and as soon as they are out its back to drugs. i should be able to feel as though my brother is safe if he is going to the basketball courts, yet i have to worry if someone is going to offer a 13 year old kid heroin. We don't live in a bad area & we shouldn't have to worry like we live in a bad area like we have too. all they get is a slap on the hand, go to rehab and as soon as they are out its back to drugs..
concernedcitizen March 06, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Even drug addicts, if they see the cameras, they'll just go 10 feet the other way or have fun vandalizing it from behind. Or if they read the Patch, they'll move back to mcDonald's or somewhere else that probably would take only a few days for the police to find out about. So if the police really know that they're at the park the 2 hours after school, I would hope they'd pull some people in, and try to get to the higher up dealers too. The police have rounded up kids under 21 drinking in the woods with a swarm of police, on short notice. But they're not able to do that at the field when they know the when, where, and it seems like also the who? As a 19 year old, I'm sure you've never sipped alcohol, but what if a 20 year old friend of yours was nabbed for doing that because of the camera? Looking at arrests, we seem to fight alcohol or pot harder than heroin. Look at most tools – they might start by being used for a noble cause like preventing heroin sales in a park or countering terrorism, but before you know it, the heroin sales moved, and the camera are used for much more trivial things or to justify their cost. Are you sure that you or someone you care about has never done anything in their whole life that you would not want on camera for the police to review and hold for 5 years, especially as a kid growing up? But I also do agree that cameras, with the right approval processes and access controls, can be useful. Be careful what you wish for.


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