Once again, Hightower Park in Satellite Beach will soon be under the watchful eye of video surveillance – this time a real-time feed to dispatchers and at times even patrol cars – to add a new level of safety to the location where a brutal sexual assault occurred earlier this year.
The park had a pilot program for video surveillance more than 10 years ago, but that system malfunctioned within just a few months, said Satellite Beach Police Chief Jeff Pearson.
“We have wanted a video system in that park for years, but the quality was just not there and it was a nightmare. After that, they economy went into the downturn and we didn’t have the money to do it,” he said.
The Satellite Beach City Council on Oct. 18 approved the $40,000 purchase, which will piggyback onto an Osceola contract to expedite the transaction. The new system will include eight high-resolution cameras with storage capability intended to “support the protection of life and property” at the key recreational offering.
The cameras will monitor the Hightower Beach access, parking lot, entrance, exit, exterior of the restroom building and two main pavilions, which will have new, 180-degree panoramic cameras. The real-time streaming camera system will have low-light and facial-recognition capabilities. Challenges include how to combat salt spray on lenses and corrosion of metal components.
Video from each camera in the system will be recorded and maintained for at least two weeks so that law enforcement personnel will be able to go back and view an incident that was reported after the fact, Chief Pearson said.
Had a video surveillance system been up and running, it may have led investigators to a suspect in the sexual assault case sooner by being able to get the license plate number of the suspect. However, Pearson said it would not have replaced the solid police work from that point on, including a DNA match, that led to the later arrest of Winter Haven resident Harry Page, 37, a registered sexual predator.
Page, who is being held in Brevard County Jail, faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated sexual battery, burglary of an occupied vehicle, aggravated battery, robbery and false imprisonment. A docket sounding on the case is scheduled for Dec. 4 at the Moore Justice Center in Viera.
Patrol cars with laptops will be able to log on to the new system for real-time video feed, but the cameras will not be monitored 24/7 and will mostly be used for evidence after the fact, Pearson said.
Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker said the city has sought video surveillance at its beachside parks and other public facilities for years, including a sizeable allocation earmarked each year in the city budget under capital improvement projects.
Next up for high-resolution camera systems is Pelican Beach Park, possibly followed by the city skate park/dog park complex, she said.
“We know that just having the cameras there will serve as a deterrent’’ to crime, Baker said.