Chicago Park District security cameras at Oz Park, elsewhere not doing the job, Michele Smith, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, parks advocates say

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) after a community meeting in June 2021 about safety and policing near Oz Park. She says she tried for weeks to get footage from the $5,800 Chicago Park District security camera system at the park.

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

The Chicago Park District’s security camera program is under fire by parks advocates and some Chicago City Council members, who say they are costly but worthless as a deterrent to crime in neighborhood parks.

Some city officials say the cameras, which parks employees rarely monitor, are below the standard needed to be tied into city Office of Emergency Management and Communication systems.

In some cases, neighborhood residents were encouraged by parks officials to raise thousands of dollars to buy the surveillance equipment but say they can’t get answers about why they aren’t working.

“We really wish the park district had explained to our neighbors what the limitations of the cameras were,” said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who said she tried for weeks to get footage from the $5,800 camera system in Lincoln Park’s Oz Park. “They certainly would not have gotten it under those circumstances.” 

“We’re only a half step above not having them,” said Anthony Porfirio, president of the Haas Park advisory council, where eight cameras were installed in the park’s $4 million fieldhouse in 2011. 

In April, the Better Government Association reported that most of the nearly 90 park district cameras are in affluent neighborhoods that have the least amount of crime, like Oz Park, and few are in parks with the most reported crime.

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Security cameras scarce in parks with the most reported crimes

Michele Lemons, a spokeswoman for Rosa Escareño, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s parks superintendent, wouldn’t say how the cameras are monitored or answer other questions about the security program but asserted that the “surveillance cameras are monitored to detect and address activity that might compromise park safety.”

In all of 2021, one crime — a simple battery — was reported at Oz Park, police records show. But a neighborhood furor over security ensued after a June 1, 2021, shooting nearby in which the police said a 17-year-old boy fired into a …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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