Respect the FlashCam!
Community Redevelopment Agency staffers have said people hang out in a lot the agency owns in a two-to-three-block stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard east of Seacrest Boulevard. They have said they suspect drug deals and prostitution take place as well.
So in September, the CRA mounted a $6,000 solar-powered camera that can be activated by motion up to 100 feet away and will shoot high-resolution flash photographs, then make a loud announcement:
“Stop. This is a restricted area and your photograph was just taken. We will use it to prosecute you. Leave the area now!”
In a memo for last Tuesday’s CRA board meeting, Development Director Michael Simon reported “a significant decrease in loitering on the property.”
A series of photos, dated Dec. 18, the day the camera was installed, show the familiar sight of people loitering in plastic chairs and upturned soda crates under a tree in the vacant lot. Simon said Friday that 20 to 30 people were there. In the ensuing images from Dec. 18, the people start to move off; police then arrive with further encouragement, and soon the area is devoid of people or chairs or crates or anything except trees, sand and grass.
Photos dated the next day, Dec. 19, show people again congregating; images from Jan. 17-22 alternate between small gatherings and images of an empty area.
The pictures don’t have time stamps, so it’s not known whether they were taken minutes apart. But Simon said CRA staff drive by almost daily and “after installation of the camera coupled with increased enforcement of the No Trespass Agreements by the Boynton Beach Police Department, there have been almost none (loiterers) on our properties.”
While images can be used in court, the CRA has said the camera primarily is a deterrent; what Executive Director Vivian Brooks has called “a behavior modification tool.”
The stretch of road is in the Heart of Boynton area, which residents, social groups and the city are trying to revitalize.
The CRA owns the empty lot and would like to sell it, and several around it, and wanted to encourage the gatherings to move to nearby Sara Sims Park or Carolyn Sims Center.