A need to increase security at Hope Mills Municipal Park has led the town to add cameras that will aid park staff and law enforcement in keeping an eye on potential lawbreakers.
“In this day and time, we can’t be everywhere,’’ Mayor Jackie Warner said, referring to the Hope Mills police department as well as first responders.
“This helps them investigate things that happen and also gives them a look at maintaining what is going on in our parks.’’
With the continuing increase in the population of Hope Mills, Warner said usage of the Municipal Park area has increased dramatically.
“I don’t know of a day you can go up there when there aren’t people everywhere,’’ she said. “We have more people using the park, not just the walking trails but the ball fields and the picnic areas.’’
Kenny Bullock, who heads up the parks and recreation department for Hope Mills, said the goal is to cut down on vandalism and to improve the overall safety of people who use the parks.
Although it’s more of a preventative measure, Bullock said there have been some real problems, including graffiti on the dugouts at the ball fields and on the bleachers and playground equipment.
There have also been fights and other issues at the outdoor basketball court. In extreme cases, they’ve had a shooting and some drug deals.
Police have increased patrols of the park area, Bullock said, but the cameras will help to bolster security when there’s no physical police presence.
The town has purchased four digital cameras that can be viewed on a monitor while also recording activity and storing the video digitally.
Bullock said the four cameras can be moved around to different locations in the park.
“Some are going to be set up randomly and some where we are having issues,’’ Bullock said. “We should be able to pull up each day’s recordings.’’
Bullock indicated both recreation department staff and law enforcement officials from Hope Mills will be able to access the video and review it.
Representatives of the company installing the camera equipment will come in for a single day of training for those who will be using it, Bullock said.
He’s hopeful the entire system will be up and running by the second week of September.
“Hopefully it will deter some of the activities going on in the park that shouldn’t be going on in the park,’’ Bullock said.
Warner stressed that most of the activity the cameras hope to monitor is the malicious mischief that can go on when no one’s watching.
“We’ve been very fortunate,’’ she said, adding that there have only been a few serious incidents in the park during her term as mayor of Hope Mills.
“Usually, we’ve found it’s not people from Hope Mills,’’ she said. “For the most part, the kind of things we’ve seen are some graffiti or loitering, especially around the basketball courts. The assumption is it might be drug buys, or they might be seeing if they can create some issues.’’
In addition to possibly catching those who are trying to cause problems, Warner hopes the cameras will give those who use the park for legitimate purposes a greater sense of security.
“In the early dawn hours when people are walking or at dusk in the evening, this is another way of making them feel safer,’’ she said. “If something takes place or somebody is out there that shouldn’t be, hopefully they’ll be able to target it.’’
Warner encouraged citizens who see something out of place to do their part and let someone know about it.
“If you see something you don’t think is right, you need to notify the police,’’ she said. “I get phone calls or emails from people when something doesn’t look just right. You can report stuff on our website too.’’
To report suspicious activity via the web, visit www.townofhopemills.com. On the homepage, click the link labeled “Report a concern.”
Warner added citizens can be confident their reports will remain anonymous. “The police have been really good about taking a tip and not alerting anybody where it came from,’’ she said.