Town Parks to Get Video Surveillance Cameras

Recreation and Parks Director Jim Gilchrist and Jim Starr, a consultant from Fishkill-based Commercial Instruments, discuss the town's plans to put surveillance cameras in all its parks. Credits: Bob Dumas

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Town officials are moving forward with a plan to place video surveillance cameras in all the municipal parks, with Mahopac’s Chamber Park and Jimmy McDonough Park first on the list to get the security equipment.

Recreation and Parks Director Jim Gilchrist and Jim Starr, a consultant from Fishkill-based Commercial Instruments and Alarm Systems Inc., gave the Town Board a presentation on the project at last week’s board meeting.

Police and town officials say that the parks have suffered greatly from vandalism, such as people driving vehicles onto ballfields and damaging the skate park at McDonough Park.

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“Unfortunately, we have too many incidences where we’ve seen vandalism and people with unauthorized vehicles out there tearing things up and it’s nice to see we are moving forward and getting good security systems in place,” Councilman Jonathan Schneider said.

Gilchrist said he’s been working on the project since February, teaming up with the Carmel Police Department and Commercial Instruments and Alarm Systems to formulate a plan.

“We went around to all the town parks and came up with a program for each park and what would be involved in putting surveillance cameras in each one,” he said. “Proposals came back in July and went before the Recreation Committee at its August meeting. They recommended it be done in the Chamber Park and Jimmy McDonough Park first and get those parks under video surveillance to protect the parks and the people who use them.”

Gilchrist said Commercial Instruments and Alarms spearheaded the project, working with the detective division of the police department to roll out a plan.

“They went around to each park and identified problem areas that they’ve been dealing with over the years,” he said.

The gazebo at Chamber Park will act as the central location for the surveillance equipment.

“When I looked at Chamber Park there were a couple of things that struck me right away,” Starr said. “There is a lot of infrastructure on the back of the gazebo, so we are going to utilize some of that space for our equipment. There is some expansion room because the location is so close to the downtown area and the availability of wireless technology there. We could easily push some video to that location from [businesses] up and down that street if that was ever needed.”

The Chamber Park’s system will feature five 4.1-megapixel high-resolution cameras.

“Three cameras will be looking out at the park and two inside the gazebo for any vandalism that could take place,” Starr said.

The recorder, along with a monitor and a mouse, will be housed in a locked metal cabinet on the back of the gazebo.

“You can walk right up and interrogate [the video] there or get it into an internet connection that could fully support it offsite as well,” Starr said.

At McDonough Park, the equipment will be secured in a storage area in the building that contains the restrooms.

“In that room, we will place a locked metal cabinet similar to the one at the Chamber Park,” he said. “Again, it will be an all-inclusive system with an uninterruptible power supply. It will have a wireless connection that will go to one of the poles directly across the driveway to get to the two cameras [placed] up higher to look out at the two baseball fields and another camera to look down at the problematic skate park. They are all long-range 4.1 megapixel—very high-resolution cameras.”

There will also be two other cameras at McDonough—one looking down at the parking lot area and one that will watch the entrance to the building that will house the recorder.

The cost of the project, which Gilchrist said has already been included in the budget, is $11,306 for Chamber Park and $14,479 for McDonough Park.

“These are two of our busiest parks but our plan is to do all town parks at some point,” Gilchrist told the board. “Maybe we will do two or three a year. The Airport Park is going to be under [renovation] soon so we are looking at doing a limited area along the entrance road [for cameras] because we don’t really have anything else to put cameras on throughout that park at this point. So, it might make sense to hold off on that park until a little bit later.

“The Sycamore Park estimate is around $35,000 because there is a tremendous amount of electrical work that needs to be done—conduit work throughout the park,” he added. “Plus, that’s another park where we are going be making improvements over the next couple of years, so we might want to phase that park in.”

Starr said the systems are designed to accommodate future upgrades, both physically and technologically.

“We are going to have internet protocol at every location. It allows us to make subtle changes along the way,” he said. “We have a lot of room for expansion.”

Gilchrist noted that the town has the option of signing up for a maintenance/service agreement that includes regular monitoring and repairs when needed, or a less expensive annual check-up where Commercial Instruments and Alarm Systems comes out once a year to perform a diagnostic examination.

“I would recommend that we go with the service contract,” he told the board.

Gilchrist said he hopes the work on the two parks can be completed later this year.

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