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Neigborhood Watch Program Announced by SPOA

Surfside-Potrero
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The Directors of the Surfside Property Owners Association have developed a plan to install CCTV cameras on public roads throughout the community in an effort to discourage break ins and theft.

The plan was developed in consultation with a security company new to the area, according to their announcement of the program.

Since cameras require power and internet access and need backup power should we ever have a disruption in electric service, the plan is to have internet based cameras (IP cameras) installed on private properties and aimed at the public streets and the beach.

Currently the majority of the new installations are in front of local businesses, including the Beach House, Costa Rica Sailing Center, Bahia del Sol Hotel, Perlas, and the Pitaya Lodge. The system may also be monitored by security at the Bahia del Sol Hotel during evening hours from 6pm to 6am.

The cameras are accessible to any member of the Surfside POA, 24/7 as part of a neighborhood watch program run by the Surfside Property Owners Association. Home owners are also encouraged to participate by having internet connected cameras installed in front of their homes aimed at the street. Parked cars, passing traffic, and anyone walking down the street or out walking the dog would be visible on these cameras.

While this sounds like a well intentioned plan, there are some issues that members of the community have raised regarding the program. Since they are not members of the SPOA they have no voice in the matter.

First of all, anyone with access to the cameras, which are linked to the internet, can monitor the coming and going of residents. While the network will obviously be secured, anyone who gets access to the password has access to the system for viewing. That allows someone with access and ill intent to know the comings and goings of the residents and anyone in the community.

One could watch to see when someone leaves their home, or crosses the bridges out of the community. This increases the risks for homeowners as others know when they are out and would allow advance notice of when they are returning. Quite the opposite of the intended purpose. It is also the reason most CCTV cammeras are restricted to use by private business or municipal organizations, not the public at large.

Second, anyone watching the cameras knows when and where someone as entered a business. Not necessarily a bad thing, unless you consider this to be a violation of a persons Personal Privacy Rights. It is.

Third and most importantly is this belief that being able to watch the comings and goings of potential bad actors will somehow deter them from committing a crime. One only has to watch the nightly news to know this is not true. People commit crimes on public streets daily, in full view of security cameras monitored by the police and local governments. They still need to be identified and arrested by the police, in possession of the stolen items.

There are several instances within our community where homeowners have identified the people commiting the break in and identified on camera, only to find that the case was tossed from court because the alleged thieves were not caught in the act. Just ask any long time resident.

While it may be entertaining to watch the security cameras on a nightly basis to see what your neighbors are up to, it does little to increase the security of the local community.

The best solution for reducing theft and breakins, is installing a home or business alarm, with cameras monitoring your home exterior and points of entry, and better yet, knowing your neighbors and their contact info. Let your neighbor know if you plan to be away for an extended peiod and let them monitor your home alarm or have it call them if their is a problem. They can respond or contact local authorities if needed.

We all agree we are living in unprecidented times, with all the political tensions and concerns over health and wellbeing of friends and family, business restrictons, driving restrictions, income and inequality, and environmental concerns making headlines on a daily basis. In times of inequality, it is easy to become worried about what others may intend.

It is important to remember how fortunate we are to live in a community where we know most of our neighbors and rely on local business for many of our daily needs.

We can walk to the grocery store and local fruit and vegetable market, walk to the beach for sunsets or morning walks along the Pacific Ocean, go fishing or take a swim in the ocean, take a bike ride or hike on trails and enjoy mountain views of the coast, or putter around in a tropical garden.

There is a lot to be thankful for.

During what has been labelled a global pandemic, our community has seen growth in development and new homes and with it new residents, tourists and returning visitors. All this despite the restrictions on travel and curfews.
The new Flamingo Marina Project has continued with their development with the vision that the "global pandemic" will not last forever.

Many have expressed concerns over the increase in local workers who have been brought in to participate in the numerous ongoing construction projects, believing that with it comes potential increased crime and health risks. This is a faslehood that has no basis in fact.

The vast majority of these workers support local business as well as their local families and extended families elsewhere in the country and abroad. They are working long hours, six days a week and are rarely out roaming the streets at night.

The reality is that crime has actually decreased throughout our community and Costa Rica in general.

There are many factors that can be attributed to this.

  • Fewer tourists are perhaps the biggest reason. Less tourists leaving doors unlocked, or leaving valuables in their car or on the beach means fewer potential victims of petty theft.
  • Evening driving restrictions also makes it difficult for theives since they too are restricted from driving.
  • The new Police Station in Brasilito and one in Flamingo has also helped to increase response times for police and emergency services.
  • We now have a Fire Department near Conchal staffed with first responders, and not reliant on volunteer responders.

While the Surfside POA should be commended for their efforts to address the concerns of their members, Surfside, Costa Rica is not St. Lois or Baltimore, nor is it downtown San Jose. The best deterent against crime is knowing your neighbors and others in the community, not creating a an online reality show for the world to watch.

If you don't want others watching what goes on within your own home or business, live online 24/7, then you should extend the same courtesy to those who want to enjoy the public streets and community at large. If you want security cameras to monitor your home or place of business, you are free to do so.

There needs to be a balance. The Surfside POA would be wise to consider input from non-members as well as their members if it truely wants to claim to represent the people who live here year round. Maybe in so doing, they could increase their base of support. It's a win-win opportunity.

For the latest details visit the Surfside Property Owners Association website.