Public Rec Center in Miami to Get Video Surveillance

Police install video system to deter crime at popular after-school spot


The Ed Burke Recreation center in Miami's Biscayne Park now has someone watching it, even when no one's there.

At its March 1 meeting, the Village Commission voted to begin video monitoring and recording of the facility.

"This would protect our children," said Commissioner Ronald Coyle. "Who doesn't want to be recorded except the criminals?"

The system was bought by the police department with forfeiture funds and has been installed for a few weeks. Staff and commissioners have been working on how it would function.

"This has been in the works for many months," recreation director Elisa Tankersly said.

One issue to tackle was who would have access to the recordings. It was decided at the meeting that access would be limited to Tankersly and Police Chief Ron Gotlin.

SAFE AND SECURE

"During the day it is more to monitor safety," Tankersly said. ``After hours we want to tape for security purposes."

Safety is an important issue because the center acts as an after-school program for 50 children and holds day camps when kids are out of school. Tankersly says most of the parents are happy with the extra steps the village is taking to protect their children.

"You can notice the little details the naked eye can't see," said Joselin Martinez Rosario, whose son Josmar, 8, attends the after-school program. ``Any little bit helps deter a sick person."

There have been previous break-ins at the center; the computer system was stolen once. With the video system in place, the village hopes it won't happen again.

"There is no way anyone could get into our office because we are taping outside the doors," Tankersly said.

Some residents wondered why the system will only record during the night and not 24 hours daily. "We need video surveillance on these premises. That is the world we live in," said Robert Braum.

PRIVACY CONCERNS

The March 1 meeting was not the first time the issue of monitoring and taping the center was brought before the commission. In previous meetings, commissioners and residents expressed concerns over privacy issues.

After staff alteration, the matter was brought back before the commission for a vote at the March meeting. Commissioner Dave Goehl was the one dissenter. He said he was wary of allowing a government agency to record private citizens. Mayor Ted Walker was absent from the meeting.

"If you scare people enough, we will have cameras everywhere," Goehl said. "It's a slippery slope."

But Mike Gruener, whose two daughters go to the park, said this was different. "I am for privacy, but I don't feel this is the same as a video camera in Times Square," said Gruener. '`It is nice the directors can see what is going on."

Commissioners voted to allow police to tweak the system if needed as long as there was proper notification to the residents and the commission.