Council Calls for More Cameras After Buttonwood Park Car Burglary
NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford City Council unanimously voted on Thursday night to refer a motion to committee which calls for an increase in security cameras in public areas across the city.
The measure was brought before the Council nearly a month after a friend of Councillor At-Large Ian Abreu had her car broken into while attending a birthday party for Abreu's daughter at Buttonwood Park Zoo.
The motion, if passed, will request the Mitchell Administration, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, and the Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods to collaboratively work together to identify the potential installation of surveillance cameras at public parks and parking lots across the city.
The motion was penned by Abreu, Ward Five Councillor Scott Lima and Councillor At-Large Brian Gomes.
Abreu opened up discussion on the issue, recalling the incident at the Buttonwood Park Zoo last month where items were stolen out of a friend's car during his child's birthday party. He cited the incident as his motivation for bringing the proposal for additional cameras throughout the city before the council.
“When I went out to see what had happened when she had gotten the call, I had asked the police officer who was making the police report if he could just check the tape and identify the person who did it. The officer looked at me and said 'we don't have cameras here at this park',” Abreu explained. “This is certainly a discussion worth having. There has to be a collaborative process between the City Council, Police Chief, and the Administration.”
In a weekly appearance on WBSM, Mayor Jon Mitchell explained that the funds used to purchase and install new security cameras is designated to the New Bedford Police Department and managed by Chief Cordeiro. The Mayor also says that the Police Chief has final discretion as to the location of the cameras based on his knowledge on all aspects of crime in the city. Mitchell also argues that the location of some of the cameras should only be known by the police to deter potential criminals from figuring out where not to commit crimes because of surveillance.
Councillor At-Large Brian Gomes scrutinized the idea that the City Council does not have full discretion of where the cameras are placed. Gomes also protested during the meeting for the Council's right to be involved in installation process of the cameras.
“The Police Chief tells us where to put cameras in crime areas. The Police Chief doesn't tell the City Council where to put cameras in our city,” said Gomes. “Nobody should be telling us where to be putting our cameras.”
Gomes also called for security cameras to be installed inside the Buttonwood Park Zoo in addition to the parking lot.
Ward Five Councillor Scott Lima says that the city not only needs more security cameras, but needs lighting and signage to support the cameras as well. Lima argues that signs acknowledging the presence of security cameras would help the public understand where they are as well as deter potential criminals.
In another unanimous decision, the Council also decided to adopt a motion recommending the City Council to again go on record in support of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) Local 888 in its opposition to a proposal by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to privatize staffing of the New Bedford/Fairhaven Bridge.
The bridge conducts an average of 5,000 openings per year for roughly 90,000 vessels. The motion says that it's “imperative that such operations continue to remain staffed by our locally sourced and community invested workforce.” The City Council went in public support of SEIU's fight against MassDOT last year as well, when former Ward Five Councillor and longtime bridge operator Kerry Winterson had a seat in the chambers.
The motion was sponsored by Council Vice President Joe Lopes, Councillors At-Large Naomi Carney, Brian Gomes and Ian Abreu, Ward Two Councillor Maria Giesta, Ward Four Councillor Hugh Dunn, and Ward Five Councillor Scott Lima.
“The state of Massachusetts has been a fiscal disaster for many years and certain individuals on Beacon Hill continue to balance their books on the backs of the men and women who work vigorously for our commonwealth day-in and day-out,” stated Abreu. “We're not going to put up with it and we're not going to stand for it any longer. So, we stand in solidarity with those men and women of the SEIU in opposition of this bridge privatization proposal.”
The Council's written support will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker, MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, MassDOT District Five Commissioner Mary-Joe Perry, and the state and federal delegation.
“I believe that there are certain projects in the city or certain entities where makes sense to have local people. I know that my predecessor, Kerry Winterson, works on the bridge,” Lima argued. “I think it's very important to folks working on the bridge that are local because it goes beyond operating the bridge. It goes to knowing what's happening on the waterfront and understanding the commerce. So, I think it's very important to have local folks.”
Council President Linda Morad was absent from the meeting due to “an incident” while traveling to City Hall, according to Council Vice President Joe Lopes. Lopes served as acting-President during the meeting.