As individuals continue to use Colohatchee Park as a place for sexual rendezvouses, Police Chief Paul O’Connell said his department is looking at ways to make the park safer and eliminate it as a place to hook-up.
“It’s been a constant thorn in our side . . . all options are on the table,” O’Connell said.
Even a drone could be utilized to monitor the park. “That might be one of the options. It’s a work in progress.”
Resident Carlos Bethart, who lives next to Colohatchee, compared the sex acts performed there to “an occupation” and called for more attention from the police. “It’s been going on forever. People think it’s only low-income [individuals having sex there]. It’s not,” he said. “You can see license plates from [wealthy] Palm Beach [County]. It’s become a real tourist attraction.”
As for solving the problem, one option that seems more likely is a License Plate Reader [LPR].
O’Connell wants to mount an LPR on one of his department’s police cars and station it at “hot spots” such as Colohatchee Park. It could also be used while a vehicle is on patrol.
When a license plate is read by an LPR camera, the data is matched against the state’s criminal and vehicle databases. It can be tailored to alert authorities to any crime connected to the vehicle – from an unpaid parking ticket to a warrant for murder. Once alerted to a crime, the officer in the LPR vehicle can immediately arrest the suspect.
Previously, Commissioner Tom Green said he is in favor of the system but only if its scope is narrowed. Green said he only wants the system to alert police to license plates connected with kidnappings, warrants, stolen vehicles and other serious crimes.
The system is already being used in several Broward cities, including Lighthouse Point. Officials there say their system, which is a series of cameras placed at the city’s entry points, has been very effective in catching criminals and helping to prevent crime. O’Connell calls that one the “Cadillac option.” Hollywood has started utilizing the mobile LPR “with mixed results,” said O’Connell.
The request to buy the $26,630 device with taxpayer dollars also got mixed results from commissioners. It’s likely O’Connell won’t get the full amount he requested. Mayor Gary Resnick said he wants to see the system implemented but suggested the police department could use police forfeiture funds to buy it. Forfeiture funds stem from money and property directly connected to criminals arrested and convicted. “The key is, does it fit within the statute,” said O’Connell.
“I definitely support [using an LPR]. Colohatchee absolutely needs to be made safe,” Resnick said.
Commissioner Ted Galatis said he would vote to fully fund the chief’s request using taxpayer money. “Hopefully, we can stop some of the crime at Mickel Field and Colohatchee Park,” Galatis said.
Commissioner Scott Newton suggested possibly implementing an old-fashioned solution: having city staff monitor the park more closely, if the city is willing to pay for it. “You’re going to have to spend the money [on extra staff time or a new employee].”
The city may get some help from the firm that wants to build a residential development next to Colohatchee in the old Yawt Property trailer park. The development, which was approved by the city and now is going through the county approval process, will include a security camera. That, said O’Connell, may be used to help monitor the park.
At some point, Colohatchee will have to be temporarily closed during construction of the development. When and how long is still a matter of debate though. At various meetings, officials have been engaged in rumor control, assuring residents that Colohatchee will not be permanently shut down. “If it has to be closed for a period of time, because of construction, I want more information,” said Green.