Russell Gardens adjourns public hearing on proposal for 24/7 surveillance

Village of Russell Gardens trustees adjourned their public hearing last Thursday on a proposal to install 24/7 video surveillance cameras in the village of 248 private homes to discuss resident input provided at the hearing.

Village of Russell Gardens Mayor Steve Kirschner said the decision to approve video surveillance could have a lasting effect on the village.

“Once you break the ice, so to speak, and you put cameras, you never know if some future board where the residents say ‘gee, I’d like a camera here, I’d like a camera there,’ you might end up with proliferation of cameras throughout the village,” Kirschner said.

He said the board had been alerted by residents of unusual activities taking place around the village, which sparked the hearing on video surveillance,

“There has been some discussion of untoward conduct happening within the village, nobody knows for sure whether its criminal conduct but some people believe it might be,” Kirschner said.

Kirschner said he is aware that surveillance cameras might feel like an invasion of privacy to some residents, but it may be necessary to stop criminal activity.

“There are residents who feel that I don’t want cameras knowing where I’m walking, who I’m walking with, and knowing my business,” Kirschner said. “You have to give up some of that, at least in these particular areas, because you’d be monitored. There are others who feel that the trade off, at least as far as privacy, is worth it if it illuminates what might be nefarious conduct.”

Russell Gardens Association president Larry Chaleff said the association’s decision to install cameras at their pool after people were found breaking in and damaging equipment helped prevent further problems.

“Those of you that use the pool will notice that we have many video cameras throughout the facility and we now have signs around the pool that say it is under video surveillance and if anyone is trespassing they will be prosecuted,” Chaleff said. “We eliminated and have not had one issue at the pool since then, and that was some time in early July, so we haven’t had any more problems there. Obviously, the cameras do create some sort of a deterrent.”

John Velaoras, a resident on Linford Road, said that cameras will not catch anyone committing an illegal act and that a small number of cameras now will just escalate to more in the future.

“I have cameras in my places of business, in front of my house, and I have never caught anyone in the acts of illegal activity,” Velaoras said. “I don’t buy it. I think it’s three cameras now, probably 10 in the near future, who knows. I don’t agree with it.”

When asked for further explanation of specifically what wrongdoing was taking place in Russell Gardens, Kirschner reiterated that nobody knows the extent to what was going on.

“It’s pretty vague but they think there may be drug sales going on,” Kirschner said. “Nobody knows for sure, there are people with strong beliefs that something is going on. I don’t know and the police haven’t arrested anybody.”

Kirschner said the village would place cameras in three possible locations if their installation is approved: on the corner of Tain Drive and Wensley Drive, towards the entrance of the village side of the park on Melbourne Road, and on Clint Road near the border of the village of Thomaston.

Camera placement would cost the village $4,500 per camera and would send a feed to Village Hall, he said.

Kirschner said that he would send out a mayor’s letter via email to residents letting them know of the board’s decision on the cameras within a week or so.

Also at the meeting, Kirschner announced that the trustees who were in favor of changing the trustees’ terms of office from two to four years had withdrawn their request.  Kirschner did not name the trustees who requested the change because it was withdrawn.

The next board meeting date and time will be announced in the same mayor’s letter that will alert residents on the decision of the surveillance camera installation.

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Joe Nikic

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