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Wildwood City Hall to add video monitoring

Soon public meetings won’t be the only time the time visitors to Wildwood City Hall will be on camera. 

On Monday, Oct. 14, the City Council approved a measure to spend up to $75,000 on a new surveillance system. Although the funding will come from county tax money designated for public safety, there was still some debate among council members.

“I think it’s important to understand that we’re not guaranteeing safety,” council member Cheryl Jordan [Ward 6] said regarding the proposed installation of the cameras.

Fellow council member Crystal McCune [Ward 7] took the point a step further arguing the cameras would not prevent crime but could be critical to any potential law enforcement investigation after the fact.

Wildwood City Council Meeting on Oct. 14, 2019: [from left ] City Attorney John Young, council member Joe Garritano and City Administrator Sam Anselm
[Photo: Jeff Bricker]

Director of Parks and Planning Joe Vujnich, who helped prepare the recommendation that was presented to the council, took exception to McCune’s conclusions.

“With all due respect to Ms. McCune,” he said. “I do think it is a deterrent.” He went on to explain how he believed the cameras could deter mischievous crimes like vandalism.

Council member Don Bartoni [Ward 2] concurred with Vujnich.

“I agree with you, Joe,” Bartoni said. “I think it can be a deterrent for crimes of opportunity.”

Other members of the council voiced concerns over potential infringements of personal privacy.

Council member Tim Woerther [Ward 7] asked City Attorney John Young if video recordings taken from the new cameras could be viewed by any citizen. Young answered that it was his opinion that any potential recordings would be public record by definition allowing for only a few exceptions.

Woerther called that “problematic” noting that visitors to City Hall could be recorded without their knowledge or consent.

Vujnich disagreed with this conclusion.

“The expectation of privacy here [at City Hall], you shouldn’t have it,” Vujnich said. “It’s a public building.”

Despite the spirited discussion, the measure passed unanimously

Council member Joe Garritano [Ward 8] expressed his disbelief that proposal received any objections from his fellow council members.

“It provides assurance that, if something is going to happen [at City Hall], we can follow up on it,” Garritano said after the meeting. “The employees here deserve that kind of protection.”

In addition to the initial costs of purchasing the cameras, associated equipment and installation, the city will pay $5,790 a year for ongoing maintenance.

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