Vero, County to get donated surveillance systems

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach Police Department announced Wednesday that both its agency and the Indian River Sheriff's Office are the recipients of donated surveillance camera systems to be installed across Indian River County and Vero proper.

The press release, which was sent to print and broadcast media throughout the Treasure Coast, said the agencies will be holding a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Vero Beach Police Department to reportedly receive a donation of about 25 cameras.

"The purpose of the press conference is for Mr. George Shinn, a Vero Beach resident, to present checks to the Vero Beach Police Chief and the Indian River County Sheriff in order to kick off their planned city/countywide wireless camera network," the release said.

Shinn is the former owner of the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets professional basketball team and two minor-league baseball teams. Shinn's four decades' old foundation funds educational projects, prostate cancer awareness efforts and purchases shoes and other needed items for the homeless. The foundation also worked to repair more than 60 New Orleans homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"These donations by the George Shinn Foundation will be used to install the initial camera systems and backbone for growth of both the citywide wireless camera network for Vero Beach and the countywide network for Indian River County," the release, signed by WildFire Camera Networks CEO Bob Dunlap.

A North Carolina-based company, WildFire Camera Networks boasts that it is a pioneer in the field of surveillance networks and sets the national standard for wireless cameras used by local law enforcement agencies.

"The most recent innovation announced by WildFire is our new line of solar-powered wireless cameras that can be installed virtually anywhere on a standalone basis," the WildFire website states.

The announcement came as a surprise, since no plans for a network of urban surveillance has been presented to or approved by the Vero Beach City Council. Presumably, the taxpayers will have some share in the cost for installing and monitoring the camera images, and for archiving and cataloging the footage the cameras tape.

Indian River County currently has traffic cameras at major intersections, but according to Public Works Director Chris Mora, those cameras do not record, so there is no footage to be requested as public record or subpoenaed for use in civil or criminal court cases.

The Sheriff's Office has recently obtained funding and grant assistance to beef up its camera surveillance at the jail and around the Indian River County Courthouse, but it's unknown how and where Sheriff Deryl Loar plans to use and install the cameras in the unincorporated county.

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