NARRAGANSETT, RI – Plans for a camera system for the Narragansett Community Center drew mixed reviews from city council and the public on Monday.
The $ 9,001 four-camera system proposed by Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Kershaw originated in a tragic accident in February 2020, Kershaw said.
A 90-year-old woman leaving the center was struck and killed by a backing up garbage truck. The driver did not see the woman and there were no other witnesses.
Kershaw said the cameras will be funded by a grant and not paid for outside city coffers.
All four cameras will be aimed at the center’s front, back and side parking lots and are designed to deter crime and vandalism in the newly renovated community center, according to Kershaw.
âWe have a lot of nightlife going on at the center where full time staff are not on site. People are given a code to enter the building and sometimes the meetings are at 10 or 11 in the evening, âKershaw said.
In the end, the board approved the buy on a 3-2 vote.
Council members and the public assessed the value of providing more security for a public area of ââthe city, fearing the surveillance would become excessive and risk being abused.
“Why are we buying cameras for the community center,” asked Councilor Patrick Murray, who, along with President Jesse Pugh, opposed the cameras. “I’m just not a big fan of cameras.”
Pugh said he understood the reasoning behind the camera proposal.
âI think if you run a facility or in law enforcement, serving the public, you would want that for accountability and for many other reasons,â he said. âBut I have concerns about the over-surveillance of public buildings. “
President Pro Tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno takes over the camera system for the center.
âI know it’s used a lot. I know the old people go there and the Lions use it for activities, âshe said. âWe have cameras at the beach, and I think that’s important and provides another level of security. And it’s a subsidy, so we don’t pay for it.
Councilor Deborah Kopech asked if four cameras are needed or if the center can cope with one or two. Councilor Ewa Dzwierzynski said that as a big fan of Law & Order, she supports the cameras for both safety and security as well as liability protection.
Resident Catherine Celeberto asked if the camera recording system could be put into a loop that erases footage after a set amount of time, say 24 hours.
âSo it’s not that bad and doesn’t stay on the tape forever, and 10 years later you’re on YouTube,â she said. “Is there a way to use it in the short term without keeping it forever?” “
Al Alba said the cameras would help.
âWe have an elderly population going there, we have bad weather conditions,â he said. “The reality is, I think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Kershaw said she would not be monitoring the day-to-day flows. It would only be checked after an incident.
âIt’s not like we’re going to have a multiplex screen and watch everyone move,â she said.