More News:

April 13, 2023

Philly to install more than 100 security cameras to create 'safety net' around city rec centers

There have been nearly 300 instances of gun violence at city parks since 2019

Government Gun Violence
Security Cameras Philadelphia Street View/Google Maps

Philadelphia will install more than 100 security cameras at 14 city parks and recreation centers to combat gun violence and help investigate crime. Pictured above is the Martin Luther King Rec Center, which will receive 10 cameras.

Some recreation centers and parks in Philadelphia that have experienced gun violence will get new, 360-degree security cameras as part of an effort to create "safe play zones" across the city, officials said. 

More than 100 cameras will be installed at 14 parks and rec centers impacted by gun violence. The sites were chosen by Philadelphia police based on crime data in the areas surrounding the recreation centers. 

The issue first came to light in 2021, when City Councilmember Cindy Bass introduced legislation to increase the city's capital budget by $1.8 million to purchase and install "Safe Play Zone" cameras, providing 360-degree views to assist police in their efforts to keep parks and play spaces safe for kids and families. Though the pandemic slowed the process, more than $5 million was allocated in this year's budget to install the cameras.

The legislation was initially introduced on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke to help combat a rise in gun violence at or near recreation centers and playgrounds in the city, which has claimed the lives of multiple residents in recent years. There have been nearly 300 incidents of gun violence at or near those facilities since 2019, according to Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. 

Among the victims of gun violence in those areas was Tiffany Fletcher, an employee at the former Mill Creek Recreation Center who was fatally shot while sweeping outside the facility in September. The playground has since been named after her, and a 14-year-old boy was arrested in connection with the shooting. 

"Recreation centers, parks, and playgrounds are a vital part of city life," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a news release. "In this year's proposed budget, we plan to expand access to rec centers through more weekend hours and continue our investments in recreational facilities through Rebuild. The Safe Play Zone cameras are an ideal complement to these efforts, offering an added layer of security to public spaces just in time for spring and summer — and reflecting our commitments to public safety and thriving neighborhoods." 

Kenney's final budget proposal includes increased funding to keep libraries and rec centers open to the public on weekends, keeping them accessible to children and families looking for activities when students are out of school. City Council will hold its first hearings on the Parks and Recreation proposal on April 19. 

The city also revealed plans earlier this month to expand summer programming with more than 100 summer camps, swimming lessons, spraygrounds, reading activities at the Free Library, city block activities, youth development, athletics and paid job opportunities for teenagers. Police will step up patrols in and around pools and parks this summer, as the city expects families to take advantage of the free opportunities. 

Officials hope that the security cameras will be a deterrent and help police investigate evidence of gun violence near city facilities. Still, some concerns linger about the effectiveness of cameras in preventing violent crime. A study conducted by a Temple University criminal justice professor in 2019 mapped Philadelphia's crime data from 2003 to 2012, finding that CCTV surveillance cameras had "no significant impact" on crime. 

Surveillance footage has helped police track down suspects in gun violence cases in recent years. When a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot near Roxborough High School in September, police were able to identify suspects using a combination of city-owned surveillance cameras and footage from residential doorbell cameras. 

Similarly, police were able to utilize street cameras to help identify victims and suspects during a mass shooting on South Street in June, which killed three people and left 11 others wounded. 

When a woman was beaten unconscious by eight people in Center City last month, police released video of the attack and images captured by security cameras to help the public identify the assailants, many of whom turned themselves in to police shortly after the footage was made public. 

"These cameras are essential as Philadelphia police create a safety net around our rec centers and playgrounds," City Council President Darrell Clarke said in a news release. "Our kids need safe places to play, and this initiative is one more step to help achieve that for them." 

Each of the security cameras will be tied to an intelligence network monitored 24/7 by police personnel at the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center in South Philly. A list of the first parks chosen for the initiative can be found below. 

• Hunting Park Recreation Center: 12 security cameras 
• Hancock Rec Center: Eight security cameras 
• Lonnie Young Rec Center: 10 security cameras
• Tanner G. Duckery Playground: 11 security cameras 
• Marie Denby Rec Center: 11 security cameras 
• Francis Myers Rec Center: 10 security cameras 
• Cecil B. Moore Rec Center: Three security cameras 
• Russo Park Playground: 11 security cameras 
• Happy Hollow Rec Center: Nine security cameras 
• Wissinoming Park: 12 security cameras 
• Martin Luther King Rec Center: 10 security cameras 
• McVeigh Rec Center: 10 security cameras 
• Feltonville Rec Center: Eight security cameras 
• Rivers Rec Center: Three installed in February, seven total will be added