Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

Surveillance proposal would implement audio recording system at local parks


The City of Kimball is looking to beef up security measures at local parks after a slew of summer incidents through the use of surveillance cameras with audio.

According to Kimball Police Chief Darren Huff, the potential placement of the new camera system serves as a way to expand the continued efforts of the Kimball Police Department to keep crime in the city parks low.

“What we’ve been looking at is a slew of vandalisms that have been going on in the city parks, both City Park and Gotte Park. Over the summer, we’ve given numerous trespass orders to people. We have filed charges of criminal mischief on a couple individuals. We’re trying to keep it to where this is not something that we’re constantly having to worry about,” Huff said.

The proposed surveillance would entail a remote system that would record onto a hard drive in order for the police department to be able to point to certain dates and times and help specify suspects who may be involved in vandalism at the parks.

“For instance, if someone’s going into the bathroom and we find out that there’s a busted toilet on a Monday, we can backtrack over the weekend and see who went in and out of it and narrow down our search,” Huff said.

However, the criminal acts at the park are not simply contained to vandalism inside the restrooms, according to Huff.

“At City Park on the south side of the restroom building there are some electrical access points. Those have been kicked and busted numerous times. Every time they break those, the electrical department has to come in, re-fix them, and put the shroud and covering over it. It’s just getting to be expensive and time-consuming,” Huff said.

Though many public areas throughout the nation have a form of surveillance video equipment, an option in the current proposal by the police department would add an element of audio recording to proposed system to be placed in the parks.

“That is really instrumental for law enforcement. I know there’s a little bit of problems with that from some of the city council people, but honestly, the law says that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a park. Typically, we don’t go to the park to have privacy, because you’re in public. If you’re engaging in criminal activity, that’s what we’re concerned about. We’re not out to violate anybody’s civil rights,” Huff said.

When asked about the potential reaction of seeing the audio surveillance as a seeming violation of privacy, Chief Huff likened the situation to sitting in a car on a public street.

“You’re in your vehicle, but you’re on a public city street. If you’re doing something in your vehicle to where I can see you doing it from outside of the vehicle, the law is pretty specific: you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The same would go in the park. The only place where there is an expectation of privacy would be in the restroom, and, obviously, we’re not putting cameras in the restrooms,” Huff said.

According to Huff, this isn’t the first time that such methods have been used in the city parks.

“Right now, we have a game camera that does record video and audio, and we’ve used it at the park before like when we had the grease pole up. For insurance purposes, we didn’t need anyone climbing up the pole and hurting themselves so there was a sign that said ‘Stay off’ and there was a camera set up there,” Huff said.

If the new surveillance system is approved by the City Council, residents will be notified via signs placed in the park.

“There will be signage up that will tell you that you can be videotaped with audio recordings. That is a really good deterrent in of itself. If you come into a park and you see something like that and know that you’re being recorded, you’re going to be, more than likely, on your best behavior,” Huff said.

However, surveillance cameras and the audio recordings would not cover every inch of the park, but rather be placed near areas of interest.

“It’s not like we’re going to point it on the playground just to see what people are doing. If we do get it approved to up the budget for the parks to install these cameras, we’re going to use them strategically where we’ve had incidents already,” Huff said.

Chief Huff also reiterated that the placement of the security cameras serves to help the police department keep Kimball covered and compensate for the fact that they can not be everywhere at once so that issues at the parks do not fall by the wayside.

“It isn’t something that we’re just looking at to do a short-term fix. We want to make sure that this kind of stuff isn’t constantly happening where we have to worry about it. That will help us. We’re just trying to keep that end of the criminal activity down to a minimum as much as we possibly can,” Huff said.

The City Council will discuss the police department’s proposal at their August 22 meeting at which time it will be decided whether or not the police department can move forward with surveillance cameras with audio recording capability.


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