Published in the Star-Ledger, Friday, November 30, 2007
Live, from Woodbridge
BY SHARON ADARLO
Forget to wear a helmet at the Woodbridge skate park and kids may expect a stern text message from a tech-savvy parent before landing their first jump. Go without a coat on a chilly day, and mom may stop by the park to drop off another layer.
Woodbridge's skate park is now live on the Web courtesy of a $19,000 camera system that allows parents to log on to watch kids flip, turn and grind the rails.
After vandals damaged the park earlier this year by prying ramps from the concrete base and scrawling graffiti, township officials installed a 24-hour surveillance camera for police and parents to keep an eye on the popular recreation venue.
"Any parent at home can click on it and make sure their kids are where they're supposed to be," said Charles Kenny, a Woodbridge councilman.
Woodbridge is among a handful of towns across the country experimenting with Webcams at public recreation areas -- both as a way to fight crime and to give parents another way to keep up with their children. The Webcam images are recorded digitally by the police and may be reviewed if another incident like the recent damage at the skate park occurs.
"A lot of people were upset with the vandalism," said Mayor John McCormac, who came up with the camera idea. "Now we have extra eyes and ears on the job. Anybody can see something happening and report it."
The camera sits atop a 50-foot metal pole and provides a wide-angle view on the skate park as kids launch from various ramps and rails into twisting turns and tricks. Most of the skate boarders at the crowded park earlier this month had no idea their skills could be viewed on the Web anywhere in the world.
"It's pretty cool because people can see us skate," said Ryan Berg, 13, of Cliffwood Beach.
The resolution of the color broadcast is sharp enough to pick out skaters by their clothes.
Ocean Township Mayor Dan Van Pelt said his municipality spent $23,000 to install a similar Webcam that has the ability to rotate and zoom for views of the new skate park in the Waretown section of the Ocean County township.
With the proximity of the park to busy Route 9, the camera also gives parents another way to make sure kids arrive safely at the park.
"If we are going to make that kind of capital investment, we want to protect it," Van Pelt said. "It's a valuable tool. I like to see the kids enjoy the skate park."
A link to the Woodbridge's skate park Webcam is available at the bottom of the township's main Web site: www.twp.woodbridge.nj.us.
Not everyone is thrilled to be online, said some kids at the park on a recent afternoon.
"It's pretty radical, but I don't know -- it's an invasion of privacy," said Dylan Sobin, 15, of Cliffwood Beach. He said he was worried it could be a way for pedophiles to scout victims.
Parents visiting the park voiced support for the added measure of security.
"It's very nice," said Barbara Moore of Avenel, who was waiting for her grandson. "You can see what they're doing. You can keep an eye on them."
Other kids seemed willing to accept the Webcam as added protection.
"It's good," Chris Camplos, 12, of Woodbridge, who was riding a razor-scooter. "Everybody was sad when the skate park was vandalized. Now all parents can watch everything."
Sharon Adarlo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (732) 404-8081.
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- Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.