Cameras In Pioneer Park
February 24th, 2009
Video surveillance wil be coming soon to Pioneer Park, but will it scare away the drug dealers?
by Richard Markosian
The Pioneer Park improvements from one year ago have proven to be a lot like "Extreme Make-Over Home Edition". The story goes like this:
The park is closed for a long time and the inhabitants go on vacation. While the vagrants and drug dealers are away the city invests $1 million into making the park nicer, with a jogging track and dog run. The city reopens the park to cheering and fanfare. The camera crews and media move on -- the end. That's how the Pioneer Park story goes, if you read the papers. But there is an ending that the main-stream media didn't tell you.
The actual inhabitants of the park were still on vacation when everyone shouted "MOVE THAT BUS!!" Then, just a few days after the exciting news had calmed down and the reporters returned to their offices-- the homeless folks, drug dealers and prostitutes moved back to examine their new park. It turns out they liked the improvements! So much that they plan on staying there for years to come!
Last summer Pioneer Park hosted the Farmers Market but also hosted the crack market, meth market and the various prostitution markets. Getting the story from within the park these activities are not subtle-- they are easy to spot. Which is why the latest idea of bringing cameras into the park is a bit puzzling. What do they hope to see with the cameras that any observer can't already see?
We thought we would get opionons from workers in the area to see what they think about the surveylance camera idea.
We began in Carluccis' Bakery where Dillon Hase was serving customers lattes and sandwiches. Hays said he doesn't think the cameras will do any good, and that [video surveylance] will only cause the drug dealers to go out of sight of the cameras to conduct their transactions.
Customer Cecile Paskett is skeptical of the idea, she says she doesn't necessarily agree with the ACLU's threats of a lawsuit but she believes that with more scrutiny and questioning the public will hopefully get a more clear picture about how the cameras will be used.
Jose Farfalla from Las Vegas said that he thinks if the cameras make the park more safe for families and children then he is in favor of the plan.
Outside Mark and Clint had just finished their lunch at Caputtos. Mark spent several months last summer installing a "green roof" on Caputo's building, during which time he observed the park. Mark (who didn't want to offer his last name) said he believes the cameras are a good idea. "If you are in a public park you are going to be seen, if you have a problem with that then go home. I guess the homeless don't have the option to go home but they don't have any privacy anyway."
Mark said that he had heard a report (that Utah Stories has not verified) that around 70 people died in the Pioneer park in 2008 due to freezing, or drug violence, he added that the cameras could possibly help save the lives of some of homeless who reside in the park.
Asked about the lawsuit that the ACLU is threatening to file Mark says, "They don't have anything better to do. They need to be shown the Brittish standard, where there is a camera on every street corner." We then digressed into how the Brittish now fight crime by dispatching officers using a CENTCOM (central command center) from their camera network.
Mark then talked about how just after the I-15 improvements were completed in 2002, the state concurrently launched "a billion dollar camera system on the freeways that could track speed, track license plates and issues tickets without any police involvement." Mark said the system was up for approximately 10 hours before the database crashed because it was overloaded with offenders. The entire system was never used again.
So will the new camera system deter crime in Pioneer Park? The Tribune wrote a very good article investigating this topic which mentions a study conducted on the extensive video surveillance systems that are currently in the United Kingdom The study found that the cameras did have an effect on traffic problems but had little to no effect on drug activity and prostitution. Utah Stories will work to find out if Salt Lake City leaders are aware of this study.
The Other Side of Pioneer ParkNovember 19th, 2008
Pioneer Park: A Strange DichotomyJune 25th, 2008
Pioneer Park: What Kind of Pioneer Legacy is This?November 8th, 2007