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Council Addresses Recreation Center Violence At Only Hearing Of Summer

(Philadelphia recreation commissioner Sue Slawson, left, and deputy mayor Michael DiBerardinis testify at a city council hearing on violence in parks and recreation centers.  Photo from City of Phila. TV)

(Philadelphia recreation commissioner Sue Slawson, left, and deputy mayor Michael DiBerardinis testify at a city council hearing on violence in parks and recreation centers. Photo from City of Phila. TV)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – More surveillance cameras may be part of the answer as city officials briefed Philadelphia City Council today on what they admit is an “uptick” in violence at recreation centers and in the city’s parks.

City Council convened a rare summer hearing in the wake of several high profile crimes at rec centers and in parks, including the rape of a 12-year-old girl in July (see related story).

Among those testifying was deputy mayor Michael DiBerardinis (at right in photo, who said the Parks and Recreation Department is ramping up its installation of video surveillance cameras.

“Somewhere in the next few months, we will begin the installation of many of these cameras,” he told councilmembers at the hearing.  “I think most of them will be put in in September and October.”

A few larger centers already have cameras, and DiBerardinis believes they have helped.

“We had some preliminary success at a few centers, Vare Center in particular and in Fox Chase, with security cameras,” he said.  “Both our staff and our advisory council leadership and our users said they made a big difference as a crime prevention tool.”

DiBerardinis said the cameras function both as a deterrent and a crime solver, and he expects 30 facilities to get cameras eventually.

The cost for the expanded surveillance cameras at recreation centers is about $375,000.

Recreation commissioner Sue Slawson (at left in photo) did caution that the cameras don’t allow for real time monitoring — only taping — because of budget constraints.

This was an informational hearing; no actual legislation is before the committee.  No other hearings are scheduled on any topic this month.

The summer break is a longstanding tradition that began decades ago, before Council chambers had air conditioning. City Council resumes its regular meetings and consideration of new laws and regulations the second week of September.

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