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A sense of safety

What’s the point in having a skate park if parents are afraid to take their children there?

Police Chief Tighe O’Meara says his department receives complaints about drug dealing, public drinking and marijuana smoking. He told the Parks and Recreation Commission in a Monday study session that transient camps along Ashland Creek and people congregating at the “free box” at the nearby Ashland Recycling Center contribute to a sense of decreased safety at the skate park, to the point that some parents no longer take their smaller children there, preferring to take them to skate parks in other communities.

O’Meara proposes installing a video surveillance camera that would stream on the internet for the public to see. In response to concerns about the “big brother” connotation of video monitoring, Parks Director Michael Black said cameras that depict public spaces and don’t record are not an invasion of privacy.

They may not be particularly effective at deterring unwelcome behavior, either, if they don’t result in increased police presence and arrests for illegal activity.

O’Meara is careful to note that the problems are not necessarily confined to one group of people. As always, it comes down to behavior. Simply being present in a public space is not illegal, even if that presence makes others uncomfortable.

Parks commissioners gave O’Meara the go-ahead to present plans for a camera system. He says he wants to “bring back the perception of a sense of safety” for kids and parents, but it may take more than cameras to achieve that.