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story.lead_photo.caption Ashley Robinson of Springdale walks her dog Abbey in Murphy Park Tuesday August 21, 2018. Robinson comes to Murphy park fairly often to walk Abbey. The city is installing security cameras in Murphy and C.L. "Charlie" and Willie George Park to deter vandalism. - Photo by J.T. Wampler

SPRINGDALE -- Two parks often targeted by vandals will be equipped with cameras to help catch the culprits.

City Council members, meeting as a committee, recommended Monday night the city roughly $200,000 to buy surveillance systems for C.L. "Charlie" and Willie George Park and Murphy Park. The council is set to vote Aug. 28 on the purchase from Fleming Network and Security Systems.

Mayor Doug Sprouse said he hopes additional camera systems can be placed in Luther George Park in downtown, the Randal Tyson Park and the new Shaw Family Park in the city's northwestern quadrant as these parks go through construction and renovation.

The work and cameras would be paid for out of bond money approved by voters for the parks.

"We have made a substantial investment in the parks, and we have significant graffiti problems," said Mike Overton, a member of the council.

Someone drove a car and "did doughnuts" Sunday night, damaging the soccer field at the Charlie George Park, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Mock told to council members. "And just as we were getting ready to start soccer season."

A vandal at Murphy Park melted the sensor eyes on the sink faucets with a cigarette lighter, tried to tear the hand dryers off the walls and jammed the toilets so they wouldn't flush. Timed locks on the bathroom doors also have been destroyed, Mock said.

The new camera system for the parks will include "presence detectors" in the bathrooms covering the hours when the bathrooms are closed, said Chris Wallace, senior vice president of Fleming.

The systems also will include cameras at each of the parks' entrances trained on the license plates of cars entering the park. The information can serve as a starting point in an investigation of vandalism, Mock said.

The concession stand at the Aquatic Center in Murphy Park was broken into twice this summer, and officials found a juvenile swimming in the pool at 4:30 a.m., Mock said.

"That's a safety factor without a lifeguard -- not to mention the trespassing."

Cameras surveying the Aquatic Center will be replaced in different positions, he said.

Mock said he doesn't expect the cameras to stop vandalism, although he hopes eight to 12 cameras placed in outdoor areas of each park will serve as a deterrent.

"But the cameras can help lead us to the identification of those individuals and prosecute them," he said.

"Cameras are great for us for an type of vandalism," said Police Chief Mike Peters. "Video is always helpful."

Peters noted video by cameras placed by businesses have helped the officers solve a number of crimes.

The city will determine who monitors the cameras, which can be done on a phone application, Wallace said.

Springdale has just a few cameras in its parks, which is in line with other cities in the region.

Crant Osborne, operations manager for Bentonville's Parks and Recreation Department, said the city's only cameras are trained on the Memorial Park concession stand and the splash park and ice rink at Lawrence Plaza. The city has some trouble with vandalism, but Osborne said those incidents are very minor compared to other cities.

Bentonville city officials have discussed putting cameras in more of its 20 parks, Osborne said.

"Cameras are probably not a bad idea," said Jim Wright, director of Rogers' Parks and Recreation Department.

From the city's 2011 bond collections, Rogers built the Regional Sports Park and the Aquatics Center, and both are outfitted with security cameras, Wright said. City officials also have discussed cameras for all of its 19 parks, but often residents would prefer to see the city spend money on more recreational activities, he said.

"We prefer it to be a deterrent more than anything," Wright said. "It can be an expensive night when things happen fast ,and you don't see who it was."

NW News on 08/22/2018

Print Headline: City to outfit parks with cameras to catch culprits

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