NEW BEDFORD — A reported vehicle break-in during broad daylight in the parking lot of New Bedford's Buttonwood Park Zoo has one city councillor asking why there is no video surveillance at the park.

Councillor-at-Large Ian Abreu was holding his daughter's birthday party at the zoo Sunday, when one of his guests reported her vehicle had been broken into in the parking lot.

New Bedford Police tell WBSM News they responded to a the report of a car break Sunday at about 2:30 p.m. They say the passenger side window of the vehicle was smashed, and a computer and a handbag were taken.

"Of course I went out to see what was going on with my friend, and there was a zoo staffer there who I know very well, and I said, 'Good thing we have the cameras, we can identify the person and you can go forward from there.' And she looked (at me) and said, 'We don't have cameras,'" Abreu told WBSM's Barry Richard Tuesday.

"I was floored, completely floored that we don't have a surveillance system in the parking lot, given the valuable people and the valuable animals we have nearby there, and the individuals, the tourists who park there, who visit there, who partake in activities there," Abreu said. "It's a problem, and we need to look into this right away."

Abreu said he and Ward 5 Councillor Scott Lima plan to file a motion with the City Council to have cameras installed in the parking lot.

"We need to looking into that," he said. "We want to have this referred to the Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods, although this could be a Finance Committee item as well, because it comes down to finance and funding. How do we identify the funding mechanism? Does this maybe get put into next year's Capital Improvement proposal that comes before us through a bond, or is this something we can maybe fund through a government unclassified line item? I'm not sure what we can do, but we need to talk about the specific way we can fund this."

Abreu estimated a surveillance system would cost $35,000 to $40,000.

"That's not even a drop in the bucket," he said. "And when you talk about people's safety, the safety of the visitors, and our children, and our animals, and those that are coming to the park, you can't put a price on that."

Abreu said that as part of filing the motion, he and Lima plan on inviting several guess, New Bedford Chief Financial Officer Ari Sky, zoo personnel, and Mary Rapoza, head of the City's Department of Parks and Recreation, to discuss the cameras, and where they could be placed in other places in the city.

"I, and I know many of my colleagues, would like a readout or a printout of where the cameras are or aren't," Abreu said. "I understand some of that may be confidential, so we may have to go into executive session for that."

But despite the challenges of having the discussion, Abreu said it still needs to happen.

"This is a conversation that is at least worth having, given the amount of visitors who visit that area, and who visit our entire city. Maybe this is a great time for a discussion of our security citywide, not just at the zoo," Abreu said. "It's probably a good idea for us to look at our entire system internally, citywide."

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