Park Timbers HOA

No to Video Surveillance!

Posted in: Park Timbers
I read with astonishment the new PT newsletter with the banner headline ''PT Board Approves Video Surveillance System.''
What happened to the public meeting for all homeowners to have input on such a large ($10,000) expenditure? I am not disputing the board's ability to vote on such a measure - but the contradiction of sending out a survey, stating there will be consideration given to an open meeting - and then none is called gives the impression that the board feels it is not accountable to its neighbors.
''Big Brother'' is now watching over us whether we like it or not - and to the tune of $10,000 for a system of questionable capabilities. If the board has doubts based on a demonstration - why did they vote for the expenditure - wouldn't it have been more prudent to wait until the company could clearly demonstrate that it had functional equipment that could work at night - a time when most serious crimes occur? This decision to give a company money upfront and then see if they can make equipment work smacks of New Orleans politics at its worst.

And how is this company to know which vehicles belong in PT?
Will we be forced to register our license plate numbers and those of our guests and family members with some outside company? Please note, I do not wish to be include to be included; I do not want my license plates published on any list to be used in any manner; in addition, I wish my name removed from the PT phone book. I have grave concerns about this information being misused. If I find such information has been appropriated by anyone for personal gain, I will consider it a violation of my right to privacy and hold the board accountable. I do not wish to be included in a ''Log book'' of arrival and departures.

Please inform me as soon as possible as to:
Who will keep this private information and what safeguards are in place for its use?
Who will this company report to? What information will be included in the reports?
What is the track record of this ''Surveillance Company?' Have their personnel undergone a security check by the police. Are those with criminal records barred from working for this company? Who at this company will have access to when homeowners have left the subdivision and subsequently when their homes are unoccupied? Have these issued been addressed by the board? If so, I think a supplement the newsletter is in order so that we will all know (and not just the board) who exactly is ''watching over us!''
What violent crime spree in PT convinced the board that such drastic measures were necessary?

I believe all homeowners deserve the courtesy of answers to these questions before we are subjected to this surveillance?
I personally am outraged that $10,000 of homeowners money is being spent on an a system that by your published account, still needs a lot of work. You admit the board was unsatisfied, yet voted overwhelmingly to spend the money. WHY???????
Please put my email on the PT website - and forward it to all current board members.I think you will find that many other homeowners will have the same concerns.
Please note: I would like to know as soon as possible, how I can be removed from any and all such lists. Do I need a legal document to be removed from participation in the ''Surveillance Project.'' This is afterall Park Timbers, a community of neighbors, not vigilantes - this is not ''the project''
Glenn, I have always admired your reasonable, thoughtful approach, to issues of concern in PT. WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

Barbara Sillery

Barbara Sillery

By Barbara Sillery
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Video Surveillance--Deterrent


Thanks for the feedback, gulp! The security survey was aimed at whether people would be willing to pay for more security or, as some would like, for us to go to a gated or limited access community. At least every 6 months of not more frequently, we have some incident which gets everyone stirred about limiting access or trying to go to some form of gated community. We have never gotten sufficient response to support any such concept, as dues would have to increase to the area of $300 per year for significant additional patrolling. Although many would like additional security, there is no overwhelming support for such an increase in dues. Further, we have no mechanism to force people to pay that much absent a significant majority of the subdivision approving it or an election to create a special taxing district. Thus far, support for such an increase has been minimal. Nevertheless, if there is strong support from this latest survey, then look to have some community meetings on that.

The video surveillance proposal was something that we have been looking into for about a year. It is a low cost project in the grand scheme of things (compared to about $60,000/year for 8 hours per day of patrolling).

As for the concern that we would put up money without seeing whether the system would work and the reference to smacking ''of New Orleans politics at its worst,'' well we have not spent anything on the system yet and will not spend anything on the system until we see it work. So don't fret about that. The last thing I am interested in is perpetuating the horrendous New Orleans political reputation.

I believe you have the wrong impression about the system. It is an in-house system. There will be no outside agency/criminals/etc. monitoring it. The plan would be for the entire system to be here under our control. It would simply record the goings and comings of vehicles. If we get a report that something happened at 2:30 one morning, we could review the tape and see if have any vehicles entering or departing around that time. If so, we could provide the tape to the police. Otherwise, the tape would just be reused. No data would be accumulated, no information would be given to outside groups, etc. Likewise, no ''information'' will be kept and there will be no ''log book.'' Further, there is no ''surveillance project,'' there be no one ''watching over us,'' and there will be no list of license numbers.

I regret the offense that you took at what most thought to be a reasonable, low-cost project to assist in deterring criminal activity. Of course, I realize that many might not consider $10,000 to be ''low cost,'' but given that such an expenditure would only give us about 1 1/2 more hours per day of police patrolling, the proposal for 24 hour surveillance seemed reasonable.

I suspect that your strong comments will cause the Board to have pause and be certain that the community supports such a proposal before deploying it. In accordance with your request, I will put your letter on our web site under the ''Talk About It'' area. If because of the mechanics of the Web site, the letter would have to carry my name, I'll let you know so that you can just add it to the site from your computer.

Best regards,
Glenn Orgeron
Surveillance System Ineffective

This is just to let you know that all PT board members do not believe
a camera system would be an effective security devise. At best, its
persence ''might'' make a criminal think twice before driving into the
subdivision. It's value toward crime reduction would only be an
''after the fact'' survalence. The crime would already have been committed.

As for the vandalism that has occurred recently, Capt. Nicholas of the
4th Dist. NOPD says that those acts are almost always committed by
someone living in the subdivision. Cameras won't solve this problem.

Your point of the easy access along the canals is correct. Cameras will
not be placed anywhere to watch these areas.

As for a ''secutity meeting'', I believe that only a handful of ''strongly
opinionated'' individuals would attend and would not truly represent the
wishes of the subdivision. Only 59 replies were received for the security
survey sent out in the newsletter. Another 54 replies were obtained from
the door-to-door request. This represents a 32% resident interest in security.
The other 68% must not think security is a serious problem. This is the
most response we have had to several security questionaires over the past
years. The important questions left off the survey was ''do you have a home security system and do you regularly use it.'' I know my security system gives me a great comfort.

Additionally, anyone that leaves cars, trucks, boats, bicycles, etc unprotected
makes their property vulnerable. People who do take precautions should not
be expected to pay for those who don't protect their property.

Also, to make it clear to you about the $10,000 for the camera system, our
minutes of that meeting state that '' after a second domonstration of the
surveillance system, board members have reservations about the quality of the
captured images, a vote will be taken prior to the expenditure of any funds.''
This second demonstration should be a part of any general security meeting.

Park Timbers can afford the $10,000. That is not serious consideration. We have not addressed the continuing expense that would be involved. I view this as an
ineffective system that once installed, would soon be ignored and probably deteriorate into non-use.

I hope this clearifies some of this to you.

Richard Winchell

By Richard Winchell
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