A new system of electric eyes may be keeping watch over Winter Springs by early next year.
Winter Springs City Commissioners voted to accept a grant from the Department of Homeland Security last month to set up a network of surveillance cameras throughout the city – a move to help deter crime and terrorist attacks.
The Winter Springs Police Department plans to use the $84,171 grant to install cameras at the water plant on Northern Way to discourage anyone from contaminating the water.
But that would only be the beginning of a new camera system. The Winter Springs Police Department plans to put cameras along major roads, places of business, public parks and outside of gated communities, Police Chief Kevin Brunelle said.
“We requested a grant to keep with our five-year plan to reduce crime in Winter Springs even further by being able to put more cameras out there,” said Brunelle, who applied for the grant in 2011. “It would help us monitor the public areas and also give the criminals second thoughts about coming into the city.”
The cameras might keep the common criminals away, but they also serve to keep an eye out for something more serious: terrorist attacks, Brunelle said.
“I personally think it’s foolish for anybody who’s in charge of the public safety to take the attitude that it can’t happen here; it’s something that I’ll never do,” Brunelle said. “What I’m trying to do here is be very proactive and prepare for it.”
“There’s no credible threats that I’m aware of that there’s going to be any attack on our infrastructure or anything like that, but one thing I’m unwilling to do is to take the laissez-faire attitude that it can’t happen here.”
Surveillance cameras played a potential role in tracking down the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year. Three days after the attack, the FBI released images and video captured by surveillance cameras of suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev walking beside the track before the explosion.
The images and video may have been a contributing factor in the subsequent manhunt that resulted in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other.
But Winter Springs residents such as Katie Tero weren’t pleased to learn about the city’s use of surveillance cameras.
“I’m not too keen on that,” said Tero, who’s lived in Winter Springs for 23 years. “I’m not sure how I feel about being watched in public parks.”
“I don’t know if we have enough crime here for cameras … It’s too quiet; it doesn’t seem like some kind of place for a terrorist attack.”
Winter Springs resident Kelsie Dieckmann believed that the Winter Springs Police Department didn’t need the cameras to keep an eye on the city.
“The police do a good enough job of monitoring the roads already,” Dieckmann said. “I don’t know what goes on in a park that gives them the impression that they needed it.”
Winter Springs Mayor Charles Lacey assured that the cameras are not meant to spy on residents.
“This is not to watch innocent citizens as they’re coming and going through their daily lives, this is only to keep track of our property and the threat that might be posed to the property,” Lacey said.
“By putting surveillance cameras up, we’re thwarting any kind of activity that would be against that property.”
The number of cameras and when they’ll be purchased has yet to be decided, but Brunelle expects them to be set up in three to four months.