County installs cameras to deter turf vandals: Field at Lansdowne High one of two in county receiving extra attention [Arbutus Times, Catonsville, Md.]
(Arbutus Times (Catonsville, MD) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jun. 2--Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks officials hope that a plan to install video surveillance cameras at 13 athletic fields around the county will prevent the artificial turf fields from being damaged by vandals.
So far, only two of the fields have been vandalized, according to Bob Barrett, director of the county's Recreation and Parks Department.
Barrett said the two "minor incidents" happened within months of the completion of the installation.
In the latest incident, the field at Lansdowne High School was burned within a month of the completion the installation amd again about nine month later, according to Barrett.
"It was brand new," Barrett said. "We had hardly gotten out of the gate.
"Some kids doused it with lighter fluid and burned it," Barrett said,.
He added that the burns were minor and repairs were done during the day when it was not in use.
The repairs caused no delays to any athletic programs, Barrett said.
Principal Lynda Whitlock was unavailable for comment.
Todd Hawkins, the school's athletic director, did not return calls seeking comment.
Seminary Park in Lutherville was the first artificial turf field to be installed in the county nearly three years ago.
Vandals defaced the field with graffiti, also within six months of the completion of the installation, according to Barrett.
The county was able to use some elbow grease and a machine that uses volcanic ash to remove the graffiti "We had to get on our hands and knees and do it by hand," Barrett said.
The $13 million the county has spent on the fields since 2007 amounts to a significant investment in athletic fields used by county residents, both children and adults, "This is everybody's money," Barrett said.
In order to protect that investment, the department will spend about $500,000 to install state-of-the-art cameras to monitor the fields when the parks are closed.
"They're able to detect movement and they're able to detect color so if someone is wearing a red sweatshirt, we'd be able to tell that," Barrett said.
The cameras are also able to distinguish between a person and an animal, such as a deer, Barrett said.
"Don't ask me how, but I'm told that it can," Barrett said.
The cameras will even be able to alert local police precincts when there are trespassers on the fields after hours.
Barrett said his department used a less sophisticated system at Reisterstown Regional Park after the destruction of $100,000 of playground equipment. The camera was part of a program called Park Pride that encouraged residents to report any witnessed instances of vandalism.
Since the installation of that system and the Park Pride program nearly three years ago, Reisterstown Regional Park has had no instances of vandalism, Barrett said.
Barrett believes the cameras will send a message to vandals.
"There are a few people that want to cause us problems," Barrett said.
"All we have to do is prosecute and the word will get out." To see more of the Arbutus Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.arbutustimes.com.
Copyright (c) 2010, Arbutus Times, Catonsville, Md.
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