ST. GEORGE – It was announced this week that St. George City had put three new high-definition surveillance cameras in the Town Square Park. Public reaction toward the new cameras has been mixed.
Some concerned voices raised questions of invasion of privacy and personl rights as the specter of Big Brother Government appeared to loom overhead.
It may surprise some people to learn that the new cameras in the Town Square Park are not the first of their kind to grace the parks of St. George.
Surveillance cameras were set up in Dixie Downs Park following the rape and murder of 15-year-old Kelly Amber Hall in 2007. Similar surveillance systems have been set up in additional locations since that time.
“It’s not earth shattering news,” said Marc Mortensen, the assistant to the city manager.
However, Mortensen pointed out that the technology employed in the Town Square cameras is new.
The cameras will supply a 24 hour, high definition video feed to the dispatch center of the St. George Police Department. They also have a one-month-long recorded storage capacity and can be accessed via the smart phones of police officers.
Mortensen added that no face-recognition software had been bought and installed in the new cameras, but it may be a possibility in the future.
“[The cameras are meant] to deter crime and apprehend suspects,” Mortensen said.
He said he was surprised by some of the negative responses toward the new cameras, but added he was happy they were getting noticed nonetheless.
“We want people to know there are cameras out there,” he said. “It’s great people are talking about them.”
The more people who know about the surveillance, Mortensen noted, the less likely would-be offenders would be to commit a crime in plain sight. And if someone were to vandalize city property or assault another person in view of the cameras, the police would have solid evidence for an investigation.
“It’s all along the lines of public safety,” said Captain James Van Fleet of the St. George Police Department.
“Our parks get used a lot,” Van Fleet said. “There’s a level of public safety people expect in a park.”
Van Fleet said the new cameras would add to that expectation of safety.
For people who fear Big Brother is always monitoring them, Van Fleet added that the police department does not have anyone watching the camera feeds 24 hours a day. Routine checks are made throughout the day by dispatch staff and that was it. The only thing 24-hour about the cameras was their recording of everything that came into their view.
A mobile surveillance system was also mentioned by Mortensen. He described it as a wireless system that could be set up anywhere. Such a system could be set up at the old airport in order to prevent or catch potential acts of vandalism.
Mortensen said the mobile system was not a camera mounted to a truck that would go down the streets and spy on people, but was simply another possible way to deter crime and catch offenders.
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