Venice hopes cameras in parks will stop vandalism

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VENICE, Fla. - After recent vandalism, the city of Venice has begun installing cameras in public parks. Centennial Park in downtown is the first. Soon both the South Jetty and fishing pier will have them too. Is it a good move to help protect people and property, or an invasion of privacy?

Six cameras now capture every angle around the outside of the public restrooms in Centennial Park. "We installed them last week," says Public Works director John Veneziano.

He says they're looking to keep people safe and to keep vandalism from happening again. Recently, toilets and hardware were broken, doors were ripped off the hinges, and graffiti lined the walls.

"We've just invested a little over $50,000 in renovating the restrooms. We've had three instances of vandalism," says Veneziano.

Cameras will also be going up at South Jetty Park, where bathrooms there have been damaged and rocks spray-painted. The Venice fishing pier will be next, where vandals have damaged rails and even thrown trash cans and benches into the water.

Issues with security have some talking about closing the pier at night. "It's one of the possibilities that has been thrown out there…close it down after certain hours."

Veneziano is hoping the eye in the sky will decrease the problems and keep the pier open.

"If you don't have anything to hide, then I don't think cameras are a bad thing," says resident Michele Ruane.

Those we found at Centennial Park on Wednesday think the cameras are a good idea. “I have no problem with that. Your privacy is in your home. I don't want them as they say in my bedroom, but in public it is a different issue," says Don Dawson, visiting from North Carolina.

The cameras are also looking out into the parking lot and the nearby kid’s fountain.

Some might argue it's Big Brother now invading even our park space. Veneziano says they're only putting cameras where problems persist. "These are public places, and we are not doing it in every location, but we are targeting places where we have problems."

For now, nobody is assigned to monitor the cameras at all times. If something happens here they will be able to go back and look at the tapes. The recording devices store up to two months of footage at a time before it is recorded over.