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Heroes Park, Site of Monument Vandalism, Will Get a Motion-Activated Alert System

| February 22, 2011

You won't see the ADT sign there, but Heroes Park will soon be under motion-detecting surveillance after hours. (© FlaglerLive)

You won't see the ADT sign there, but Heroes Park in Palm Coast will soon be under motion-detecting surveillance after hours. (© FlaglerLive)

Last September Palm Coast’s chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart dedicated its monument at the city’s Heroes Park, a 2-ton, polished red granite marker dedicated to the dead and wounded who have been awarded the Purple Heart. Around Thanksgiving, the monument was vandalized. Whoever tipped it off its pedestal was never caught.

The city had the monument repaired quickly. Rick Look, commander of the local chapter and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy, had discussions with the city about better surveillance at the park. Monday morning, the city council approved a $6,000 motion-detector system that will provide alerts and possibly trigger voice warnings whenever someone wanders into the park after park closing hours. Council members also agreed to try a $300 to $500 camera system suggested by council member Frank Meeker, and usually used by hunters, though whether such a battery-operated system is feasible for the park is in question.

“There isn’t any crime at Heroes Park. This is an isolated incident of vandalism,” James Majcen, the city’s information technology director, told the council. “It’s still a big deal. It’s a different sort of park with different types of needs, and that’s where we kind of put our thinking cap on to figure out what’s a good way to monitor this park cost effectively and try to create some type of alerting mechanism to protect these areas of the park.”

The park, which parallels the north side of Palm Coast Parkway just west of the county library and Belle Terre Boulevard, is organized around five circular hubs. The Purple Heart monument is the focal point of one of them, a flag staff that of another. Three don’t yet have monuments, but presumably will in the future. The security system would be limited to the two circles that see the most activity.

Majcen described “a solution that’s very inconspicuous, that’s cost effective, that would give us the opportunity to work with our monitoring company, ADT, to send out an alert when someone comes into that park outside of park hours.” The system would be programmable: off during the day, on during after-hours, workable in real time. The laser-type perimeter would be connected to a live operator at ADT. When it goes off outside of scheduled hours, the operator would call the sheriff’s office, and a cruiser would be dispatched. The system is designed to know the difference between, say, a squirrel or a leaf blowing in the wind, and a human being. The city uses similar systems at city hall and at its water utility plants, among other places.

Most of the alarms that ADT hears are false: that’s not likely to change, especially at Heroes Park, where crime isn’t an issue. With the system in place, even innocent evening or night-time wanderers into the park would be treated as intruders, since the system can’t distinguish between good and bad intentions. The system costs $5,000 up front, and $1,000 a year in maintenance. It would be covered by part of a $9,000 grant the city got from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, which itself got an $18,000 grant to help finance a mobile, truck-based video surveillance system.

A second option for Heroes Park was a $10,000 surveillance camera system similar to the one at Ralph Carter Park—two high-resolution cameras. But that proved too expensive for the council members.

“The motion detectors, the alarm, may actually chase somebody away before they do the dastardly deed, versus catching them on camera and the next day seeing who did it,” City Manager Jim Landon said. He cautioned against expecting too much from surveillance cameras, which have their own limitations: short of a precise, high-resolution rendition of a suspect, the images are not useful to make a case in court. And miscreants are learning their way around them—or against them.  “The cameras at Ralph Carter Park have become a target too,” L:andon said. The kids know how to disarm then, and then we get pictures of the kids—instead of taking it out on the picnic benches, they now take it out on the cameras. The good thing is you’ve got multiple cameras so they think they can’t be seen because they’re right at the pole. We’ve got another camera showing them doing the dastardly deed.”

The ADT system might be considered for other increasingly sensitive spots, such as the far eastern edge of Linear Park on Palm Coast Parkway, where, just this morning, the city dedicated the Paul Baliker sculpture of a panther, reigning there since late last year.

There was some doubt about the effectiveness of an alert system. “My personal belief,” Meeker said, “this will not stop future hooliganism in the park. I don’t think it’s enough of a challenge for kids to overcome, and the only drawback in my view is the lack of being able to visibly see who it is you can go after, after it happens. It’s a good start, don’t get me wrong, and glad we’re doing something. I don’t think it’s going to be enough.”

Meeker’s suggestion was the one he uses for his own home, a $119-a-camera contraption that hunters use, he says, to keep track of trails. He proposed putting up three of those around Heroes Park as an addition to the alert system. “It’s worth a try,” Mayor Jon Netts said. But Meeker’s system may not actually prove as workable, or economical, on a permanent basis, if its batteries have to be changed and its own vulnerability becomes apparent to miscreants looking for cameras to swipe.

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1 Response for “Heroes Park, Site of Monument Vandalism, Will Get a Motion-Activated Alert System”

  1. palm coaster says:

    This is a real shame. We should catch those vandals. I have a home security system that was not expensive and has such a tiny day/night vision cameras that can include sound if desired and can’t be seeing, are wireless, never run out of batteries and the system includes a digital recorder.
    Got rid of the vandalism around my house…as they know that are being watched.

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