It may be the “Crown Jewel of San Diego,” but it’s a jewel with no security cameras or guards.
Balboa Park's lack of surveillance became a sore spot to park officials after Saturday night’s vandalism of the historic Lily Pond. The flash mob-style water gun fight left valuable fish killed, a vital pipe broken and thousands of dollars in damage to the area.
“Balboa Park is obviously our crown jewel,” Parks and Recreation Department Director Stacey Lomedico said. “For the most part, people are respectful and treat it as such – not only in the middle of the night but also during the day.”
The park is about 1,100 acres. Overall San Diego is home to approximately 40,000 acres of parks. The vast majority of urban parks like Balboa Park do not have security cameras, Lomedico said.
However, Balboa Park is the country’s largest urban cultural park and one of the city’s most treasured public spaces. With the amount of historical value invested in the park, the vandalism on Saturday night should be a wake-up call to the department, said Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation.
“I’m surprised they’ve gotten away with it as much they have,” Coons said of the park’s security. “There should be rangers there at night. It’s a dangerous place at night even when there aren’t parties that turn into vandalism.”
Lomedico says for the past month-and-a-half, she and her colleagues have indeed been talking about getting security cameras installed in the park.
The logistical issue with the security cameras is that someone would have to watch the surveillance at all hours of the day. That will have to be factored into the costs of installing the cameras, Lomedico said.
Even if there were cameras, Coons said, vandalism may continue to damage other areas in the park. After the park stopped hiring security guards to patrol the area at night, other acts of vandalism began appearing throughout the park, such as the 2004 vandalism of the Alcazar Garden fountains by skateboarders.
“We have plenty of [video footage] of the vandalism,” he said. “There really needs security on the ground.”
The installation of the cameras within Balboa Park would correspond with the upcoming centennial celebration of the park in 2015.
The department is planning for site visits over the next couple of weeks to determine the best locations for security cameras. They expect the cameras to be installed at the core of the park. Costs for installing cameras and repairs are unknown at this time.