Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg sets up six surveillance cameras in three parks

ST. PETERSBURG — Soon the city will be able to pan, zoom and focus in on crime — or so the mayor hopes.

Six remote-controlled surveillance cameras were installed in three city parks in recent weeks as St. Petersburg begins experimenting with a public safety promise Mayor Bill Foster made during his campaign: using video surveillance technology to extend the reach of police.

"We're still a ways away from really seeing these as a crime-fighting tool," Foster said. "But we try to get closer every day."

Two cameras have been installed in each of Williams, Lake Vista and Fossil parks, and soon signs will go up warning patrons the areas are being electronically monitored.

The cameras range in price from $1,200 to $2,500 and, all together, cost the city about $11,000. The mayor said he's looking to see if federal grants will help pay for the program.

The cameras will be able to record video footage and will be monitored from St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters using recycled equipment and screens. That setup is still being put together.

But their use will be limited. No one will be watching them 24/7.

Instead, the mayor hopes the presence of the cameras and signs will deter crime. And if crimes do occur, the video footage could help solve them.

Foster also wants officers to be able to watch surveillance footage and control the cameras from their vehicle laptops.

Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said that while officers won't be monitoring the cameras for now, they could if needed. "If you had an event in a park and we needed someone to watch the crowd at the park," Proffitt said, "we could do something about it."

The cameras are all mounted on city property and are supposed to be shielded from vandalism and theft. This pilot program will help city officials determine the best spots to place the cameras and how best to use them. The city will use its findings to draw up a surveillance camera policy.

Such cameras already are being used on the other side of the bay. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office used a federal grant to install 20 cameras in high-crime neighborhoods west of the University of South Florida. The Tampa Police Department operates a dozen cameras along Ybor City's popular Seventh Avenue. But those systems are monitored by officers.

Treasure Island installed two cameras to keep an eye on Sunset Beach. Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, West Palm Beach and communities throughout Florida are installing cameras.

But they have their limits: Orlando spent $1.4 million on its own high-tech camera system but can't afford to staff the cameras or the software that detects criminal activity, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Civil libertarians have their issues with them, but camera networks already exist throughout the private sector: at banks, convenience stores, ATMs and Walmarts, for example.

This technology shouldn't be confused with the facial-recognition program pioneered by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, which has built a database of more than 7.5 million offenders. That software is used to identify suspects caught on surveillance footage or those who simply won't give their names.

St. Petersburg police recently joined the sheriff's program, but that software won't be used in conjunction with these surveillance cameras, the mayor said. Tampa used such technology during the 2001 Super Bowl and in Ybor City, but later scrapped the program.

During the campaign, the mayor said he'd like to see the cameras installed in crime "hot spots" and tourist centers. But the mayor wouldn't say exactly where the cameras would eventually show up.

He did say, though, that privacy would be a foremost concern. The cameras will not be used to peer onto private property, he said.

"Where could they go? Wherever they will help," Foster said. "I certainly don't like Big Brother and big government. It's not for people to spy on the public.

"But if they're used in certain spots, they can be used as a safety measure."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg sets up six surveillance cameras in three parks 11/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 22, 2010 5:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. MLB umpires wear wristbands to protest 'abusive player behavior'


    Major League Baseball umpires wore white wristbands during games Saturday, protesting "abusive player behavior" after Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler was fined but not suspended for his recent verbal tirade against ump Angel Hernandez.

    Home plate umpire D.J. Rayburn wears a wristband to protest "abusive player behavior" on umpires by players as Rayburn heads to his position to call the first inning of a baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and and the Colorado Rockies late Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Denver. [Associated Press]
  2. Tropical Storm Harvey could regroup but stay clear of Florida


    The remnants of former Tropical Storm Harvey could rebound while two other systems brewing in the Atlantic Ocean are unlikely to develop into severe weather.

    The remnants of former Tropical Storm Harvey could rebound while two other systems brewing in the Atlantic Ocean are unlikely to develop, according to the National Hurricane Center. [National Hurricane Center]
  3. Fatal hit and run closes section of Nebraska Avenue


    TAMPA — Police are investigating a fatal hit and run crash early Sunday morning on Nebraska Avenue.

  4. Sunday Conversation: Roberto Torres talks immigration

    Human Interest


    Roberto Torres stands as one of the city's most impressive rising entrepreneurs. The owner of Blind Tiger Cafes, Black & Denim clothing company and CoWork Ybor has expanded his reach with locations at Tampa International Airport and The Morrison, a new mixed use development in the SoHo District. Torres, …

    Roberto Torres receives his American Dream award from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Aug. 15.
  5. Tampa police officer shoots man in Ybor


    A Tampa police officer shot a man while investigating a trespassing call at a vacant house on the eastern edge Ybor City early this morning, police officials said.

    Daniel Olinger, 68, was shot by an officer investigating a tresspassing call early Sunday morning. [Tampa Police]