By Nick Worth
The Holbrook City Council approved the installation of three high-tech surveillance cameras in the city during a special session held Tuesday evening.
Mayor Jeff Hill started off the discussion of the surveillance system by remarking, “I thought we were going to have a special session regarding this.”
“It was advertised and you can see the interest,” said City Manager Ray Alley, indicating the empty council chamber.
“We’ve had more vandalism this week,” said Alley. “I’m going to start including a damage and vandalism report in my manager’s report.”
Alley told the council it would still be a month before the telemetry system with its data network would be in place. This is the system that makes it possible to run the surveillance cameras.
“Administratively, I’m going to start putting cameras inside our buildings,” said Alley. “Just the cheap $100 ones. I’m going to put them inside all of our lift stations and well houses.
“For instance I had a police report that someone might have stuck a screwdriver in one of our well pump motors and done about four or five thousand dollars in damage,” Alley said. “Nobody should have a com-plaint with that because that’s all inside.
“But I sure would like to get the council’s permission to at least try some of them on our main drag,” he said. “Maybe put one at Hunt Park that would be facing toward the park and the swimming pool, because that would protect a pretty valuable asset that we continually get hit.”
Alley noted there is a big problem with kids jumping the fence at the pool, and swimming when they’re not supposed to be and vandalizing the facilities. He said a majority of the longtime residents of Holbrook he has spoken to are in favor of the camera system.
“I’d also like to try one on the west end of town that would pick up the vandalism at that park and maybe one up on the hill up by Circle K,” said Alley. He noted there are already surveillance cameras in use at the golf course.
Alley then called the council’s attention to the video surveillance policy drafted by Chief of Police Mark Jackson and noted that the policy does not give him access to the videos.
“It’s a closed system,” Alley said. “It’s all going to tape. He said there would not be a display with some-one monitoring it.
“We need to protect our assets and our people,” Alley said.
“How secure are these from vandalism themselves?” asked Councilman Richard Peterson.
“The last time we put some up in Hunt Park, kids shot them out with a BB gun,” said Alley. He said the fixed cameras would be mounted high enough that they could not be easily shot out without the shooter being caught on tape and identified. He also said the cameras have an improved case that would not be damaged by a BB or pellet gun.
“Who does get access to the videos?” asked Vice Mayor Charlie Haussman.
Alley said the policy only gives access to the videos to the chief of police and his investigating officer.
“My only concern with that limitation is that sometimes our police department is busy and for the sake of immediacy, I would like to see one or two city staff members in addition to the police department,” said Haussman. “If there’s a major crisis, or a major incident, I would like you two (Alley and City Finance Direc-tor Randy Sullivan) to be able to join forces with the police department and log into it from your computers here and get down to it.”
Haussman also told the council the majority of people he had talked to are interested in a limited system for public safety and to protect city property.
“I’ve seen this stuff come and go,” said Hill. “I’ve seen the BNSF spend big bucks on a video system to prevent transfers from getting flat tires.”
He said the BNSF system has not worked for years.
“When it comes to putting cheap cameras on public facilities, like on our lift stations, I wouldn’t mind trying it,” said Hill. “I would support protecting our true infrastructure.
“The vandalism is not occurring on a daily basis,” said Hill. He also noted the vandalism has been occur-ring in areas that would not be covered by the proposed camera system. He said he still had reservations about the cameras.
Councilman Myron Maxwell said he has had windows broken out of his machine shop several times over the years. When asked by Hill if the vandals had been caught, Maxwell replied, “Well, I’ve quit filing police reports, if that answers your question.”
Peterson said he had two concerns.
“Is it worth the cost?” he asked. He said the deterrence factor would be hard to measure.
“As a tool of investigation, we may be able to demonstrate the value of that,” said Peterson.
“The other concern, of course, is civil liberties. Is this going to violate our civil liberties?”
He said it seems as though there are cameras everywhere, in the schools and in stores.
“I’m not sure we haven’t accepted cameras into our lives,” he said.
Hill said he would like the city attorneys to look over the video policy. He also asked if the curfew is be-ing enforced.
“We could put surveillance cameras everywhere,” Hill said. “We already have them and they’re still van-dalizing.
“I’m not opposed to putting them on city assets,” said Hill. “We need to be careful of what we’re purchas-ing, where we put it and what our expectations are, because I’m not for putting cameras in our alleys and on our streets.
“That’s just where I am,” Hill said.
Haussman moved to authorize city staff to place a pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera at Hunt Park and fixed cameras at the west end of town and on the hill near the Burger King only after the video policy is reviewed and approved by the council.
Maxwell seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
“I will go with ‘aye’ on this and we’ll see,” said Hill, “but it’s a very conscious ‘aye.’”
In other action Oct. 23, the council:
* Withdrew the first reading of an ordinance amending the personnel policy that would have given city employees one personal day off per month.
* Granted a special event liquor license to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
* Changed the date of the November council meeting from Nov. 20 to Nov. 13.
* Approved claims payments.
By Nick Worth