Berkeley City Council to discuss adding security cameras at Ohlone Park

Matt Gibson/Staff

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Because of illegal dumping, Berkeley City Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Rashi Kesarwani have put forth a budget proposal for cameras to be installed at Ohlone Park.

The budget proposal, which will be discussed at the upcoming City Council meeting Tuesday, sets $6,000 aside for the 2020 financial year. The money would be spent on security cameras that will be placed at the corner of Milvia Street and Hearst Avenue to deter illegal dumping in Ohlone Park.

“I have received many complaints about illegal dumping,” Harrison said. “It’s been a continuous problem.”

So far, Harrison is unfamiliar with any opposition to the proposal. She recognizes, however, that while installing cameras is not very cost-effective, the council has many different proposals — with varying financial implications — to discuss.

Harrison added that it can be very challenging to maintain a balanced budget.

This budget proposal represents one of many efforts taken by the city to crack down on illegal dumping. In the same meeting, council members will discuss a budget referral proposed by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Harrison and Kesarwani to provide $200,000 to add lighting, cameras and signs at strategic locations in the city to help mitigate illegal dumping.

Additionally, according to the recommendation, “reports of illegal dumping represented 33% of all code enforcement complaints” in 2018, with the majority of them taking place during the early summer months when UC Berkeley students leave the city and leave their belongings in streets and parks.

Ohlone Park will not be the first park in Berkeley to have cameras installed, however. In March, cameras were installed at San Pablo Park in response to safety concerns.

According to Harrison, camera installations such as the one at San Pablo Park have been “very effective” in deterring and catching illicit behavior such as illegal dumping.

This problem is especially of concern to Harrison because there is a senior center nearby and many community members use the park.

Harrison also stressed that illegal dumping is not linked with homelessness, and the cameras could help reveal who is responsible for the dumping.

Illegal dumping “brings up (a) number of concerns” including potentially hazardous materials that may be in the trash, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Byron White. He also said it could attract rodents that might spread diseases.

Ohlone Park is of particular concern because it is frequently visited by children and dogs, according to White.

“(The accumulation of trash) makes it harder for others to enjoy the park,” Harrison said. “We want to make the park more inviting.”

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.