Douglass Park Cameras Don\'t Reduce Area Crime

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COLUMBIA - Visitors to Douglass Park may have noticed an addition to the park over the summer. The city placed three cameras in the area to help with security, but according to city data the cameras may not be doing their job.

Last fall, Columbia Parks and Recreation spent more than $16,000 on the cameras, citing an unusually violent summer in 2012 for the addition.

"We had a little bit more violent crime in Douglass than we did anywhere else, and probably the lack of witnesses available to come forward - you know it happens in a crowded park and no one saw anything - so thats really what made the step of having the cameras needed," Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said.

Taxpayers paid for the cameras with the parks sales tax, a 1/4 of a cent tax added on to everything bought in Columbia. That tax went into effect in 2001.

KOMU 8 News talked with several people who spend a lot of time at the park. The residents said the cameras weren't working and provided a nuisance. Some residents also expressed concern that Douglass Park was being singled out for the cameras.

According to data from the Columbia Police Department, police were dispatched to Douglass Park 73 times from May 2012 to August 2012, the especially violent summer that prompted the cameras.

From May 2013 to August 2013 police were dispatched to the park 80 times, seven more times than they were a year ago.

Even though the cameras did not reduce crime in the area over the summer, Sergent Joe Bernhard with the Columbia Police Department said it's hard to determine just how many crimes the cameras have prevented.

Bernhard added the cameras aren't just for preventing crime, and have a significant role after police leave the scene.

"Cameras definitely do help after the fact in piecing together what did happen even if it didn't show the incident," Bernhard said.

The information from CPD backs up Bernhard's remarks. Of the 80 Douglass Park dispatches in 2013, reports were filed in 13 of them, leading to four immediate arrests. In 2012 reports were only filed in seven dispatches, leading to just three arrests.

Even though the cameras did not reduce crime, more could be on the way for different parts of town.

"Certainly as the technology gets better and the prices go down, that would be something we would like to do," Griggs said.

Bernhard said two officers also patrol the park in an effort to make it safer. Griggs said the Parks and Recreation department is planning more events to keep crime down as well.