*~ August, 2008 -- Page 1 ~*
Better Surveillance for South
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- A proposed ordinance in Broward County that would require retail stores to have surveillance cameras in their parking lots around-the-clock hit a road-block today. The idea came in response to the murder of Sgt. Chris Reyka.
The Wellington father was killed outside of a 24-hour Walgreen's last August while on-duty for the Broward County Sheriff's Office.
The ordinance had a tough time making it to the table for public comment.
A similar ordinance was passed successfully in Pompano Beach, following the murder of Sgt. Reyka. But today the County Commissioners said the proposed ordinance wasn't ready to go up for vote.
They debated for more than an hour saying that the ordinance proposed by Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion left too many unanswered questions… like which stores would be required to have surveillance cameras and how the video would be kept.
After much debate, the public was allowed to weigh-in.
Retailers were split on whether they supported the idea… some saying it would be too expensive, others questioning why government buildings wouldn't be included and required to run 24-hour surveillance on their parking lots as well. Most agreed that the ordinance needed a Task Force to gather information before presenting a proposal to the public.
The idea gained attention from family members of Joey and Nancy Bochicchio, who were found dead in their vehicle in the parking lot of the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton.
Nancy Bochicchio's sister spoke to the board, saying if cameras had been in place, her sister and niece's killer may have been caught by now and that she was appalled that store owners could put a price on life.
All in all this ordinance still has a long way to go. The Commissioners assured the public that they're behind it… they just need more time to get more information and work out the kinks.
WEST PALM BEACH, FL-- A public hearing will take place today, to discuss putting video surveillance and better lighting in parking lots of South Florida businesses.
Broward county sergeant Chris Reyka was murdered last year in a Walgreen's parking lot.
A Broward County comissioner says solving that murder would be a lot easier if there had been surveillance cameras in the area.
The hearing will take place in Fort Lauderdale.
BY ROBERT SAMUELS
Broward retailers will square off against the Broward County Commission on Tuesday afternoon over a proposed ordinance that would require all retail businesses to install 24/7 outdoor security cameras.
The proposal comes in response to last year's shooting death of Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Reyka, who was gunned down in the parking lot of a Pompano Beach Walgreen's. The case remains unsolved.
Proponents of the law say it will give police more leads in cases like Reyka's slaying -- where authorities do not have any video evidence of the crime -- and deter criminals. The Florida Retail Federation, an influential business group, said the law won't be effective at reducing crime and will stifle business with excessive costs. Federation members are expected to show up at the hearing in force.
Originally proposed in January, the ordinance is sponsored by Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion. A similar law was proposed in the Legislature but failed this year to get approved.
The county estimates the ordinance would affect 10,000 Broward businesses. Each would have to install security cameras that would run 24/7 and have recordings retrievable for 30 days.
The ordinance also mandates a new standard for parking-lot lighting, but Eggelletion has said he plans to remove that section of the proposal and just push for the cameras.
Fines of $500 would be levied against businesses that don't install the cameras. The cost of enforcing the law would be made up with licensing fees paid by the businesses.
''It's very vague and overbroad,'' said Samantha Hunter Padgett, spokeswoman for the federation.
''It would be very, very expensive for all retailers,'' she said, citing the cost of installing multiple cameras and storing hundreds of hours of tape. Moreover, she said, there's no way to know whether cameras will even deter crime.
Eggelletion disagreed. ''What's it gonna cost them -- well, what does it cost Sgt. Reyka's family?'' he said. He insisted that costs will be minimal and more than offset by gains in capturing criminals.
He also pointed out that almost every store has cameras inside, so the infrastructure for more is already in place.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said it is concerned that videos have to be stored and that there are no penalties for misusing them.
The organization said the proposal essentially places the whole county under surveillance.
''Who will have access to the videos? How will the commission make sure that Broward citizens don't end up on YouTube?'' asked Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU.
Eggelletion said the cameras will pay for themselves because it will scare away criminals afraid of their faces being recorded.
And if the crooks wear masks, then, Eggelletion said, at least their cars can be filmed.
Also expected to attend the hearing in support of the ordinance will be JoAnn Bruno, whose sister, Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and 7-year-old niece, Joey, were shot in the head at point-blank range in the parking lot of Boca Raton's Town Center Mall on Dec. 12.
Mall security personnel found their bound bodies in the SUV with the motor running about midnight. The case remains unsolved.
Mall security cameras debated,
and now delayed
The controversial law mandating security cameras at all Broward shopping centers will have to wait until at least November as county commissioners weigh a debate churning on economic, legal and even moral grounds.
Commissioners heard that debate Tuesday, then decided not to cast a final vote until the proposed law is refined, and then debated some more.
Representatives from Macy's, Wal-Mart and Publix descended on Tuesday's meeting in a bid to block the law -- crafted by Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion in response to the shooting death of Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Reyka at a Pompano Beach Walgreen's and the murder of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her daughter Joey, 7, at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall.
Eggelletion argued video tapes -- on 24 hours a day, every day -- would generate more leads for police and deter criminals.
But many business owners questioned whether the leads would actually come from cameras -- and others said the proposals would unfairly target businesses but not other buildings.
Cynthia Baker, manager of the Lauderhill Mall, noted the cost of adding cameras would be ''prohibitive'' because it is undergoing renovations and would have to install cameras during construction and a new batch afterwards.
Joy Cooper, the mayor of Hallandale Beach, said she thought security cameras should be a city issue.
''This is an unfunded mandate, and just who is going to police this?'' she asked.
S. Randy Roberts, Publix's director of government relations, called the standard unfair because many Broward buildings don't have cameras.
''How do you put this on business and not government?'' he asked as the audience applauded.
The applause silenced as Joann Bruno addressed the dais, sobbing. Her sister and niece were killed at the Boca Raton Mall.
''I find it appalling that any of these store owners believe they could put a price on a life,'' Bruno said. "When it happens at home, it hurts.''
Instead of having a birthday party for her sister next week, Bruno said, the family is planning a memorial.
''I hope something gets done,'' she said after the meeting. "I wouldn't want this to happen to anyone. Not knowing who did it, but knowing he's still out there. No one knows anything. But if they had a camera there, maybe they would have caught him.''
Yet county commissioners got bogged down not only in debate, but in a more procedural question: Is the legislation even ready to be voted on? Even Eggelletion admitted, "No.''
He said he hadn't spoken with many organization who would have a stake, including the Police Benevolent Association and the Florida League of Cities, and wanted to gather more opinions to form the nuance of the legislation -- starting with this meeting.
On Monday, Eggelletion updated the proposal modifying the cost of fines, how it will be enforced and even changing the definition of what would be considered "a retail establishment.''
The updated proposal calls for cameras in stand-alone drug stores and commercial businesses of more than 25,000 feet.
County staff also had not figured out precisely how many businesses the law would impact -- or how many already had cameras.
The lack of information alarmed Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who wondered what use the hearing would be if the legislation isn't close to being ready. Mayor Lois Wexler called the hearing "a futile waste of time.''
More than 30 minutes later, Wexler finally agreed to hear comments from the public. Most applauded the spirit of the law, but chastised its practicality.
By SCOTT WYMAN |South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Would thousands of cameras in the parking lots of drugstores and shopping centers across Broward County deter criminals or only drive up costs for the businesses?
A year after a sheriff's deputy was gunned down late at night in the parking lot of a Pompano Beach Walgreens, county commissioners are hoping to draw up a law requiring businesses to install outdoor surveillance cameras. Retailers and area cities clashed with crime victims and law enforcement officials Tuesday as commissioners debated what to do.
Rejected was an initial proposal that would have required 13,000 county businesses to equip their parking lots with cameras running around the clock. But commissioners supported requiring surveillance cameras to some degree and unanimously agreed to create a task force to come up with a better proposal by mid-November.
JoAnn Bruno, whose sister and niece were killed last year after being abducted from a Boca Raton mall, was among those urging Broward County to require cameras. Bruno tearfully told commissioners that better surveillance would help protect the public, and she disputed retailers' concerns about cost.
"All these people can talk about money, but my sister is not here and next week would be her birthday," Bruno said. Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, were abducted Dec. 12 after leaving the mall and being forced to withdraw money from an ATM.
Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion proposed the camera requirement in the wake of Broward Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Reyka's slaying Aug. 10 outside the Pompano Beach Walgreens, which remains unsolved. Eggelletion said he is willing to compromise on details, such as which kinds of businesses would have to install cameras and whether they must record parking lot activity 24 hours a day.
"One way or another in Broward County, the time has come for us to protect the public in a better way," said Eggelletion, who is up for re-election and faces a crowded Democratic primary this month. "These cameras will give law enforcement another tool to solve these crimes."
The Broward Sheriff's Office and the Police Benevolent Association have supported the proposal.
Merchants, large and small, paraded before the commission to question the cost of surveillance cameras and whether their use would generate a plethora of lawsuits. Representatives of Publix and Wal-Mart joined with local chambers of commerce and real estate agents associations in saying the county had not considered all of the consequences.
Strip mall owners said their tenants would not be able to shoulder the extra expense and that vacancies would increase. Other merchants said they should not be locked into a one-size-fits-all requirement and that cameras may be needed in some places, but not in others.
"We all want to provide safety to our customers, but we want to ensure we do it in the most efficient manner possible," said Samantha Hunter Padgett of the Florida Retail Federation.
County officials could not say how many businesses currently have camera systems and how many others would have to upgrade to meet new standards. They said costs could vary widely, but cited estimates of a surveillance system for a small shopping center at more than $11,000.
The task force will include business representatives, law enforcement, civil liberty advocates and concerned residents and will try to write a detailed proposal for a public hearing to be held Nov. 13.
Scott Wyman can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4511.
Broward County commissioners avoided a rush to bad judgment Wednesday when they rejected a proposal to require businesses to install 24-hour security cameras on their property. The decision was forced, actually, when commissioners realized they didn't have enough information to make an intelligent decision about what they are determined to do. So, they decided to create a task force to study the matter and recommend options by mid-November.
This, at least, will allow time for more reflection. The general election will be over and the temptation by some commissioners to ingratiate themselves with voters will have lessened. Still, it is clear that some commissioners are eager to make a decision based more on emotion than sound judgment. Requiring businesses to install round-the-clock security cameras is a costly venture of dubious merit.
The idea was first suggested months after Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Reyka was shot and killed behind a Walgreen's store in Pompano Beach last year. The push for cameras took on an even stronger emotional pull after the murder of Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall. These murders are senseless acts of cowardice and terrible calamities for the victims' families. Our community grieves with them and prays that the killers will be brought to justice.
But any commissioner who thinks that security cameras could guarantee that Sgt. Reyka and the Bochicchios would be alive today is sadly mistaken. Whatever deterrent effect on crime cameras may have is offset by the reality that criminals routinely rob convenience stores despite the near-certain presence of cameras. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a camera will actually record the crime, and if it does, that the image captured will lead to the arrest of the perpetrator.
Still, a majority of commissioners seem determined to force this costly tool on thousands of retail businesses. Would commissioners make the same decision if the ordinance also required cameras on all public buildings? Where would they get the money to pay for 24-hour surveillance? What programs and/or personnel would commissioners cut to make this happen?
The decision to install cameras should be made by business owners. They are well aware of the need to protect their property, and of the financial consequences (think lawsuit) of not doing so. Owners know best what kind of security -- dogs, cameras, lighting, security guards, etc. -- is appropriate for their customers and property. Passing a one-size-fits-all ordinance for cameras might make commissioners feel good, but it doesn't guarantee that a single life will be saved or that criminals will be caught.
By GRETEL SARMIENTO
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 14, 2008
BOCA RATON — Crime has gone down 7 percent in the city compared to the same time last year, according to the police department.
During a news conference today, Police Chief Dan Alexander announced that the percentage of cases solved rose 5 percent in the first six months of the year. As pending cases got solved, the number of arrests increased by 23 percent - nearly 70 percent of those arrested do not live in the city.
Burglaries also decreased by 30 percent and robberies by 8 percent. Sex offenses and homicides remained unchanged.
Since 1990, the city has grown by 39 percent and crime has dropped by 29 percent.
More than ever criminals are tempted by the fruits of an advanced technology: new cellphone models, sophisticated I-Pods and laptops. This might explain why the majority of crimes in the city, about 94 percent, remains property-related.
Some recent high-profile cases, such as the Town Center Mall murders last year, prompted authorities to think of other ways to inform and engage the community.
"We want to be more transparent," Alexander said.
To reach that goal, the department came up with VIPER (Visibility, Intelligence, Partnership, Education and Resources).
Starting today people can search online - www.bocaviper.com - for any type of crime anywhere in the city. The program lets you search the web site according to the nature, time and place of a crime.
Just as a Google map shows you hospitals, restaurants and churches nearby, a location VIPER uses a map to illustrate criminal activities. Some arrestee information, including name, age and mug shot, is also available.
Within a month, the department also plans to start a new an e-mail notification system designed to further inform the community of what crimes are taking place. And later, they also are planning to consider installing a citywide surveillance camera system.
By Patty Pensa |South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Boca Raton - Crime in the city dropped almost 7 percent from January to June compared with the same period last year. If it's any indication of what will happen the rest of the year, the crime rate would contrast sharply with last year's 15 percent increase.
Police Chief Dan Alexander attributed the decrease to the department's emphasis on street-level policing and heightened awareness among residents and business owners.
Burglary and larceny fell, while homicides and sexual offenses were unchanged. Aggravated assault was up almost 2 percent, according to department statistics released Thursday.
"We are certainly pleased the numbers are moving in the right direction," said Alexander, though highlighting that motor vehicle thefts remain a problem.
The department also launched another leg of a crime-fighting strategy introduced four months after the killings of Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey. The two were slain in December after Bochicchio was forced to drive from the Town Center mall to an ATM. The latest effort allows people to search the department's Web site, bocapolice.com, for crimes by subdivision or by landmarks such as the mall. The site will be updated every 24 hours and include details of the crime, any arrests and sexual predators.
For those who do not use the Internet, the department will begin producing and mailing a newsletter. Overall, the strategy dubbed VIPER (Visibility, Intelligence, Partnerships, Education and Resources) includes improving communication with other agencies and installing surveillance cameras.
"We felt it was extremely important to bring forward a program such as this after the mall murders," Mayor Susan Whelchel said. "There were a lot of accusations that we were not as open and transparent as people felt we should be. We agreed that we could and wanted to be more transparent."
Alexander had no new information about the unsolved murders of the Bochicchios. Another mother was taken at gunpoint from the mall parking lot in similar fashion last summer but survived.
He said those crimes are not "representative of what happens in our city." Property crimes account for 94 percent of all criminal activity in the city.
Between 2006 and 2007, the city had the biggest reported jump in crime in south Palm Beach County. Overall crime had increased about 15 percent, compared with 6.5 percent in Delray Beach and almost 6 percent in Boynton Beach.
The department slashed its command staff by a third last year, putting three more patrol officers on the street. There are no personnel changes planned in the upcoming budget year starting in October.
In the first six months of the year, arrests jumped
23 percent. During the same time last year, there was a 17 percent increase,
according to department statistics. Seventy percent of those arrested
do not live in the city, Alexander said.