Editorial: Control the use of surveillance cameras in Redmond's parks

Published Jan 11, 2013 at 04:00AM

When you go for a stroll in a Redmond park, the camera will be watching.

That’s the uncomfortable result of the city’s plan to install 37 video cameras at 13 parks and city facilities, in hopes of deterring vandalism and other crime.

The city decided Tuesday to spend nearly $120,000 over three years to install the devices, despite a report that repairing vandalism cost it a relatively small $9,200 since 2004. The city also has no report of serious crime in the parks.

If that seems an excessive response, Police Chief Dave Tarbet counters that officers are spending a lot of time dealing with groups hanging around the parks, getting rowdy and harassing passersby, making citizens uncomfortable using their own parks.

In just two parks in 2012, for example, officers responded to 161 calls at American Legion Park, spending nearly 60 hours, and 46 calls at Quince Park, totaling more than 18 hours.

Moreover, Tarbet said about $52,000 of the $120,000 expenditure is for cameras at city facilities such as the wastewater treatment plant, where it’s common for cities to use cameras to protect critical infrastructure.

The cameras can be viewed in real time, although the chief said he expects the most common procedure will be to review them to collect evidence after an incident. He also expects the electronic eyes will have a deterrent effect. The cameras will begin to record over old footage in about five to seven days.

Cameras to protect infrastructure are not troubling at all, but the ones in the parks have a disturbing “big brother” feel. Do you really want your every move watched and recorded as you play in the park?

The solution may lie in the policies adopted for the cameras’ use. Don’t monitor them live unless a troublesome incident is unfolding. And don’t look at the recorded footage unless evidence is needed to solve a crime.