Two new signs greet visitors to the Shantok Village of Uncas playground in Uncasville informing them that the area is now under video surveillance. The signs were erected this past winter on the fence around the playground next to the “No Smoking” signs.
Three cameras can be seen attached to the restroom building looking toward the playground. It is very possible that the cameras are powerful enough to provide views of the nearby road, parking lot and picnic area.
The park is normally open daily from dawn to dusk. Gates close off vehicular traffic, via two entrances from Fort Shantok Road, when the park is closed. Sometimes the park closes due to inclemental weather. Other times it is closed for tribal events.
Sometimes vehicles are parked alongside the road near the park entrance. People can sometimes be seen walking into or outside of the park. Perhaps there has been an issue with these visitors necessitating video surveillance. However, vandalism to the park seems to have been minimal over the years to some spray paint on stone benches and carvings on picnic tables and wooden railings.
Cameras Not Uncommon
Some might ask whether it is common for playgrounds to have video surveillance and the reasons that video surveillance is installed at playgrounds. Others might ask how powerful video cameras are and what can they capture.
The installation of cameras in a northwest Philadelphia neighborhood in 2013 followed a spree that included several shootings and a rape.
Last year, Mount Vernon, N.Y. purchased video cameras for their park to reduce vandalism and rowdiness. Surveillance helped law enforcement officials identify trespassers, vandals, and others committing illegal activities.
Cameras were also installed at Legacy Play Village in Ludlow, TX. Three weeks after installation; six people were arrested for criminal trespass after being caught on camera. In addition to protecting the park from vandalism, video surveillance was installed to increase the park’s level of safety at night.
Power of Cameras
The article further states that “this is no bottom self system either. The cameras are equipped with some of the latest high-tech features in video surveillance. They can pivot 360 degrees with zooming capabilities, and have a high enough resolution to clearly pick out fine details such as license plate numbers and faces. The cameras also feature built-in motion sensors which are programmed to detect any movement within the park at night. If motion is detected, the camera is then able to automatically lock in and track the moving person or object.” It is highly likely that video cameras at Fort Shantok would be equally, if not more, powerful.
Cameras Worth the Cost
News 10 reported that four separate playgrounds in California have been destroyed by fire prompting the installation of cameras. MiracleTech Security claims that “every year, security problems like vandalism, graffiti, and theft cost playground owners millions of dollars. With the risk of child abductions and other violent crimes, the human cost of even one incident is more than anyone is willing to pay.”
Getting Closer to “1984”?
Not everyone is in support of playground video cameras, The Goodman Chronicle claims states the cameras bring us closer to the future envisioned by George Orwell in “1984” since some cameras have a speaker that can talk to people and can record conversations.
A Yahoo Voices piece cites the prevalence of cameras in many public places over the years and says that it conditions “the next generation to be watched without question.”
Patrolling the Park
Shantok Village of Uncas received positive reviews from Southeastern Connecticut Kids , noting the regular patrols by Mohegan Tribal Security. It has also been positively reviewed by Connecticut Museum Quest , Connecticut Off the Beaten Path, and Patch .
Shantok Village of Uncas, also known as the Fort Shantok Park, is owned by the Mohegan Tribe, operators of the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville. In addition to a playground, the park features a gravel trail around a dam called “Freedom Trail” with a large pedestrian bridge. There are a number of smaller trails in the park, many picnic tables a baseball field, barbecue grills, large barbecue pit, a small outdoor amphitheater, and Native American cemetery.
The park is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and was purchased from the state in 1998 (then known as the Fort Shantok State Park) for $3 million and made part of the Mohegan Reservation.
Prior to this, The Day reported the park was known for its “wild keg parties” and discouraged families from visiting. At this point, the Department of Environmental Protection stepped in to ban alcohol at state parks in 1993.