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City installs park lighting, surveillance cameras

In a recent report to the Gresham City Council, city Senior Planner Stacy Humphrey cited recent changes implemented in the city’s parks that make them safer and encourage more use.

The city kicked off its Parks Safety and Awareness Project in April, according to city spokeswoman Wendy Lawton. Humphrey listed accomplishments in the past six months, including the Summer Kids in Parks program through Boys and Girls Clubs at several parks, a new off-leash park at Main City Park, extended police bike patrols and new surveillance cameras at Red Sunset, Rockwood Central and Main City parks.

Cameras also will be placed in Vance Park in the near future, she said.

Humphrey also praised volunteer-led efforts that developed Nadaka Nature Park and the Japanese Garden on Tsuru Island in Main City Park as well as community events including the recent Clean and Green day of service and the opening of the Children’s Fountain at the Arts Plaza.

“We have seen a 10 percent reduction in crime (in city parks) from 2012 to 2013,” Humphrey said.

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED: CITY OF GRESHAM - A view of Main City Park, where new surveillance cameras have been installed and lighting improved.Another way the city reduces crime in parks is by using guidelines for environmental design to eliminate closed-off areas and increase “line of sight” within the park so people can see what’s around them better. The city uses Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design standards that focus on the following three areas:

n Natural surveillance, which focuses on having people and their activities be readily observed.

n Territorial reinforcement, which focuses on developing places where park users feel a strong sense of ownership.

n Natural access control, which focuses on having clearly marked and well-lit entries and points of access to parks.

City parks also will see more improved lighting, but electrical outlets will be disabled overnight, Humphrey said. The city also will install a direction map at a Main City Park information kiosk and will improve entrance signs at all parks. Also, she added, all city parks will have LED lighting installed by 2015.

Mayor Shane Bemis praised the work of the Parks Department, which has been decimated in recent years because of budget cuts, reducing staff from about 20 a decade ago to only six employees today.

“It’s been a very steady decline since the late 1990s,” Humphrey said.

The Gresham Police Department will monitor cameras in city parks in a variety of ways, Chief Craig Junginger said.

“One of the most impressive things is we can monitor park activity from our smart phones,” he said. Officers also can monitor the cameras from their cars or office, he said.

Officers have cleared about 17 transient camps, Junginger said, and the city can do it much faster now since it uses private contractors to clear the camps instead of waiting for county crews to find the time. Councilor Lori Stegmann asked Junginger how officers interact with people in the transient camps. Junginger said officers give resource pamphlets to homeless people in the camps and work with people from JOIN, an organization that helps them find housing.

“They (JOIN) work with the city to go out and get them housing,” he said. “That’s the first step to keeping them off the streets.”

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