The wireless camera is located on a light pole next to the Mountain View Inn, at the base of the steps that lead to the Crowne Plaza. As of Monday night it hadn’t been turned on, village Mayor Craig Randall said.
The village originally purchased the camera to monitor the use of its boat launch site on Lake Placid. By the time the equipment arrived, however, Randall said the launch site closed down for the season.
Now the village has decided to deploy the camera in an area of Main Street where Randall and village Police Chief Scott Monroe have received complaints about noise problems and disturbances.
At Monday night’s village board meeting, Randall read a letter from Kari Zerrahn, manager of the Mountain View Inn, which said “the terrible noise from the bars and nightclubs on Main Street at 2 a.m. every night has caused a great deal of complaints from our guests over the years.”
Zerrahn said they’ve contacted police about the problem in the past and have tried to work with the bar owners and managers, but the problems have continued.
“I feel this is a reoccurring problem that is negative for business and is costing us tourism for downtown Lake Placid,” Zerrahn wrote. “It’s frustrating to lose our guests to something that is out of our control.”
Randall also summarized a half-dozen complaint letters written by the inn’s guests, which describe disturbances on Main Street between midnight and 3 a.m. that typically last for one to two hours.
“You have these rowdies out until all hours of the morning, shouting obscenities and screaming,” Vic Kraus, owner of the Mountain View, told the News. “This has been going on for years with different establishments.”
While police patrol Main Street at those times, Randall said the camera could be an additional tool to help them and may also be a deterrent.
“The problem is that no matter how many uniformed officers we have on the street, people will come out of the bars and, while it would be naive to think they’d act like normal people, sometimes they don’t,” Randall said. “The thought of the chief is that the camera could also be used to surveil the Main Street corridor in that area. I’m not convinced 100 percent it’s going to stop all disturbances on the street. But I do know from other cities where these type of issues occur that it has tended to become a deterrent to some of that activity.”
The camera, which Randall said can zoom in to identify people and license plates on vehicles, would provide a video feed to the village dispatch center at the firehouse. It will allow the dispatcher to determine how many police officers need to respond to a situation on the street, said Trustee Zay Curtis, who lives near that section of Main Street and said he’s had to call police in the past to report disturbances.
Village officials said the camera has been located in a site where it will not infringe on anyone’s privacy.
“You can’t aim it at anyone’s apartment from there,” Curtis said.
But Trustee David Jones asked village Attorney Janet Bliss if the village is obligated by law to post signs saying the area is now under video surveillance.
“I want to make sure everything we’re doing is legal before we activate this unit,” he said.
Bliss said she believes the area will have to be posted, but said she would research the issue.
Trustees held off activating the camera until those legal issues are worked out and until the board has a chance to see a demonstration of the camera’s capabilities.
Kraus said he hopes the camera will help resolve the problems he and his guests have had to deal with.
“There’s nothing like a police presence, but any tool they can use at this point would be worth a try,” he said.
Monroe told the News last year that he’d like to have at least one surveillance camera on Main Street.
“It’s a well known fact that on Main Street during the night, if we’re not there or tied up on something, a lot of things happen,” he said in December. “If we had a surveillance camera up there, it could keep people a little more honest.”
Last fall, a camera was mounted on a light pole in the same area without the village’s permission. It was installed by a company that was working with a group of local merchants to provide wireless Internet service downtown, but was taken down by village crews.
The new surveillance camera has been installed on a light post on Main Street (seen just above flag) in front of the Mountain View Inn.
Photo/Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News