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Shores set to buy security camera for Jungle Trail


When cameras were installed on A1A at the northern and southern boundaries of Indian River Shores last year to track vehicles entering and leaving the town, some made references to Orwell’s Big Brother, but the vast majority of residents in the small town want even more surveillance, says Public Safety Director Richard Rosell.

Rosell will ask for $36,000 during budget discussions this month to install a third security camera and license plate scanner near the Jungle Trail, which is a kind of backdoor into the town.

If approved, the move would ensure every way in and out of the upscale island community is watched.

“This is the only entrance and exit left in Indian River Shores that is not covered by a camera,” Rosell said.  “Overwhelmingly, the people in my town, the feedback I have gotten, are in full support of it.”

Indian River Shores’ FY17-18 budget, including funding for a third camera, is expected to pass at the Sept. 28 town meeting, councilman Robert F. Auwaerter said.

Auwaerter helped secure funding for the first two cameras last year and says the barrier island’s unique shape makes Indian River Shores an ideal spot for this type of high-tech policing. “The main value is that of a deterrent,” he said. “The criminal community generally knows [the cameras] are there.

Ever since the installation of the security cameras on A1A was announced to the public last year, there has been more traffic on the Jungle Trail, Rosell said. The Indian River Shores Department of Public Safety believes this is because some people, especially those intending to commit a crime, don’t want their whereabouts watched.

The cameras have the ability to read license plates and interface with state and federal criminal databases. If a plate is flagged in the system as belonging to someone with an outstanding warrant, for instance, an alert goes out to patrol officers in the field.

Last October, officers got an alert for a car with a stolen license plate. As they pursued the vehicle, a chase ensued down Old Winter Beach Road. The driver was able to make it to the county’s jurisdiction, but crashed behind the Sea Oaks community.

Investigators later found ski masks and weapons in the car. “They were going into the Shores for a home invasion or a robbery,” Rosell said. “If we didn’t have that software, and if [the officer] wasn’t paying attention, something bad would have happened.”

Installation of the cameras on AIA has not only thwarted criminal behavior, helped solve crime and recover stolen property, it has also improved community policing by allowing police to identify a high number of Indian River Shores residents who are unknowingly driving with outdated registrations, licenses or insurance.

The community has many older residents and there were issues like one spouse driving their deceased spouse’s car without updated papers, Rosell said.

Instead of issuing citations, officers partnered with the tax collector’s office to help people solve these problems.

“We could use the system to come down heavy handed on the public and write citations all day long, but I don’t want to do that, especially in the instance where it is obvious somebody doesn’t know they are violating the law,” Rosell said.

These cameras are tracking everyone who comes in and out of Indian River Shores on A1A and apprehension about such surveillance is understandable, he added.

But, the Public Safety Department takes its responsibility to protect and serve seriously, Rosell said. “There is a zero chance that I would ever abuse [the camera system] nor would I ever allow anybody to abuse it,” he said. “The fears are legitimate, but it’s not going to happen.”