The Town of Babylon is replacing dozens of surveillance cameras at its ocean beach facilities with high-tech models that officials said will make it easier to keep the peace and protect town property.
Contract workers began installing the new cameras at the Cedar Beach Pavilion this week in advance of the venue’s opening Memorial Day weekend. The $80,000 bond-financed undertaking at the beachfront properties is part of a multiyear plan to upgrade Babylon’s security cameras townwide, officials said.
“They’re vital to the town,” Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Patrick Farrell said of the devices. “At the end of the day, they’re there to protect the taxpayers’ interest.”
Camera technology has improved since the town started installing them around 2009, said John Cifelli, Babylon’s director of operations. The blurry feeds transmitted by the old analog devices became especially difficult to decipher at the beach properties, where salt water, wind and sand have degraded them faster than elsewhere in the town, he said.
Cifelli looked on as workers from IntraLogic Solutions, the Massapequa company that maintains Babylon’s video surveillance system, ran wires for the replacement cameras at Cedar Beach on Tuesday. The new devices, which cost $400 to $800 each, provide much crisper images than their predecessors, he said.
“It’s a world of difference,” he said.
Cifelli said he expects all of the new ocean beach cameras to be installed by July or August.
The 50 new cameras are some of more than 300 that Babylon has watching over 35 municipal parks, buildings and other town properties, Cifelli said. The feeds are monitored by public safety staffers during the day and IntraLogic employees at night.
The cameras automatically record any motion they observe, and retain those recordings for 30 days, according to Joe Grubman, a systems design engineer with IntraLogic.
Babylon pays IntraLogic $47,880 annually for monitoring and maintenance, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
Farrell said the town expends fewer resources patrolling its properties, thanks to the cameras. They also deter crime and have helped law enforcement investigate shootings, vandalism and other incidents, he said, noting the Suffolk County Police Department can review the town feeds.
Brandon Welsh, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, said studies have shown video surveillance of public space to have a modest impact on crime, reducing it by about 15 percent. He said cameras function primarily as a deterrent.
Marc Blitz, a professor at Oklahoma City University School of Law who studies the issue, said legal precedent has established that government video surveillance of public space generally does not violate our “reasonable expectation of privacy,” which is grounded in the Fourth Amendment’s protection “against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Babylon’s surveillance camera system
Number of cameras: 311
Costs: $47,880 per year for monitoring and maintenance
Monitoring: 24 hours, seven days a week