Richland Hills, Texas, May Buy Cameras for City Parks

Councilman Mike Sloan supports having cameras in parks, saying that the surveillance would allow the city to reopen restrooms at Rosebud Park.

Richland Hills may join the growing number of cities that have installed surveillance cameras to reduce vandalism on city property.

The City Council has asked staffers to determine the cost of installing cameras at Rosebud Park and possibly the city's other three parks. A report is expected in about a month.

Councilman Mike Sloan urged the council to install cameras so the city could reopen restrooms at Rosebud Park. The restrooms were closed in 1999 after vandals ripped out toilets and sprayed graffiti on the walls.

The damage has been repaired, but only groups that reserve the park for family reunions or other events have access to the restrooms.

But Mayor Nelda Stroder said cameras may be too expensive for the city of 8,200. In addition, someone at the Police Department would have to monitor the video feeds, she said.

The use of cameras also raises privacy concerns, said Michael Linz, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney in Dallas.

"With the new technology, the ability to monitor everything that people do has increased exponentially," he said. "The real issue is at what point are the people going to say enough is enough?"

Richland Hills resident Nick Ross, who was taking his daily stroll through the park Friday, said he was skeptical.

"I don't think it's a good trade-off between my well-being and privacy," he said.

Sloan said Rosebud Park -- at Pine Park Drive and Rosebud Lane -- is the only city park with permanent restrooms. The portable toilet placed there is unsightly, and taxpayers should have access to the permanent restrooms because they paid for them, Sloan said.

If the cameras are affordable, he said, the city could install them at Windmill, Kate Baker and Creek Trail parks. Those parks also have portable toilets.

If Richland Hills decides to install cameras, it would join several other communities.

Grapevine installed four cameras at Dove Park six months ago for $7,000, including related equipment, said Doug Evans, director of parks and recreation. The move was in response to vandals who damaged playground equipment. Evans said the cameras have deterred further vandalism.

North Richland Hills spent $50,071 last year to buy cameras for Cross Timbers, Green Valley, Walker Creek and Richfield parks, city spokeswoman Mary Edwards said.

The cameras were installed a few weeks ago, she said. Officials expect that the devices will help reduce vandalism at the four parks.

This year, Fort Worth code officers began placing still and video cameras around the city to detect illegal dumping.

Since October, more than 7,500 tons of trash have been collected citywide from illegal dump piles, city records show.