Churubusco park turns to electronic eyes

     Be warned visitors and potential vandals of Churubusco’s park — you are under video surveillance.
     Four cameras were recently installed as part of the new splash pad project and town officials hope they will help deter vandalism and other crimes in the park.
     At the very least, they can be used to review a crime and get a possible suspect.
     Although the cameras came on the heels of the new splash pad, park director Rick Krider said the time had likely come for the park to have cameras anyway.
     “I think we were probably about due,” he said.
     The window of a construction truck being broken during construction was just one problem.
     “We had quite a bit of vandalism while the splash pad was being built,” Churubusco Town Marshal Chad Fulkerson said.
     Vandalism and break-ins at the park before the splash pad was built were also a yearly problem.
     “I can’t remember a year we haven’t had them broken into at least once … every year, we have vandalism back there,” Fulkerson said of the dugout boxes that hold vending supplies.
     Within the next few weeks, the camera feeds will be available on a secure website that only police, Krider and others with the password will be able to access.
     Police will be able to see the feeds on their in-car computers or at the police department.
     Churubusco’s park isn’t the first one in Whitley County to use security cameras to monitor activity or review the tapes for leads to crimes.
     Columbia City installed 12 cameras at Morsches Park in recent years. Those are monitored by city dispatchers at all times.
     They have been used to stop burglaries to park buildings or figure out who a suspect is of a crime committed at the park.
     “You can review the video to make the arrest, and we’ve done that several times,” Columbia City Police Chief Mike Petersen said.
     He feels the cameras help the department be both proactive and reactive to situations at the park.
     The department would like to have the camera feeds available on a secure website so police could check the video from their in-car computers, but, as with anything, money is the problem, according to Terry Wherry, information systems manager for Columbia City.
     Aside from the cost of the website, the city would also have to buy in-car computers for several cars and equip all of them with wireless Internet access.
    Wherry said the immediate plans call for the city to just maintain what it has in place, unless grants or outside funding sources become available for more cameras or equipment.
     Even with 12 cameras in the park, there are still blind spots.
     “The park’s so big, you just can’t cover it all,” Wherry said.