Independence officials have plans to upgrade camera surveillance at historic sites and parks.
Eric Urfer, director of the Parks and Recreation and Tourism, said last month's vandalism at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate – some person or people busted 18 8-by-10-inch windows underneath the mansion veranda – wasn't the main reason for such plans, though it exemplifies why the city wants to add cameras.
“We were looking at it before this incident – not just there, but really systemwide, like at the Vaile Mansion,” Urfer said. “We have some already at the National Frontier Trails Museum and the (Chicago & Alton) Depot.”
The windows damaged in March cost not quite $200 to replace, Urfer said, and city employees were able to make the repairs in house. In November 2017 a vandal threw a rock that broke a window off the mansion's formal dining room. That cost about $400 to fix – again done in house. The department's small maintenance budget covered all costs, he said.
A year earlier a window on the carriage house was broken during the middle of the day. The buildings of the Bingham-Waggoner Estate are set a couple hundred feet back from Pacific Avenue.
None of the vandals were caught. Urfer said there are motion sensors on the Bingham-Waggoner premises, but the vandals' actions did not activate them.
The city is working to get quotes on surveillance cameras, Urfer said, but installing them at historical sites requires a balancing act between security and staying true to the integrity of the site.
“If you walk up and see 12 cameras, it takes away from the historical appeal,” he said.
In addition, the city will employ small trail cameras around the parks, hoping to catch people committing acts such as illegal dumping, off-roading or vandalism, and ultimately curb those actions.
The trail cameras are about the size of a digital camera or small smartphone and can be discreetly employed and easily moved from one location to another, particularly if employees notice patterns of activity.
“We can put them in any park, and the technology on those has advanced to the point where pictures are pretty clear. We're pretty impressed with some of the images we've been able to get off them.”
“They are small and somewhat camouflaged,” he said. “They're not really noticeable.”
Urfer said these trail cameras also have been on the department's radar for some time, and now it's more feasible to purchase a number of them at less than $500 apiece.
“When we looked at this a number of years ago, the cost was prohibitive,” Urfer said, “but it's affordable now.”