Martin County rejects talking beach cameras

Martin rejects beach cameras

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

STUART — Martin County commissioners unanimously killed a proposal Tuesday to install talking cameras along beaches to crack down on sex acts in public places.

"I was the one who brought up the idea but it kind of got blown out of proportion with these talking cameras that invade people’s privacy" said Commissioner Michael DiTerlizzi.

DiTerlizzi suggested putting up Web cams last year in response to a rising number of arrests by sheriff’s deputies of men soliciting other men for sex at public beaches.

Proposals explored by county officials included installing $5,500 cameras that flash a bright light when activated by motion, then play a recorded warning before taking a person’s picture. County officials also explored a plan that would have cost $315,000 to install cameras that would allow monitoring dispatchers to actually talk to the people being watched.

But Sheriff Bob Crowder said Tuesday that while having cameras watching the beaches might help law enforcement, it would not be enough to warrant the expense.

"The money you are talking about plus other follow-up costs to maintain the cameras wouldn’t be prudent," Crowder said.

Commissioners said they did not like the camera idea but they wanted to do something to deter public sex at the beaches.

Commissioner Lee Weberman suggested using police academy cadets who are training for careers in law enforcement to patrol the beaches instead of paying to have sworn deputies there full time. Crowder said he would look into that idea.

Commissioner Sarah Heard suggested putting up signs that say the beaches are patrolled regularly.

Commissioners agreed but Commission Chairman Doug Smith told officials to talk to members of the tourism industry before putting up signs. Tourism officials last year objected to signs the sheriff erected warning people about vandalism at beaches, saying the signs could scare away visitors.

Crowder will try to increase enforcement, and plans to give commissioners an update this summer. He said he would also try to monitor Web sites where people have been going to discuss meeting at Martin County’s beaches for sex.

"I don’t know that we’re going to stop the problem. This is a problem that is within people and there needs to be some moral adjustment within them."

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