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Rapid Camera Rollout After Howard Beach Murder at Odds With Pace Elsewhere

By Katie Honan | August 30, 2016 7:16am | Updated on August 30, 2016 8:44am
 Security cameras at Forest Park, which were finally installed in July after years of delays.
Security cameras at Forest Park, which were finally installed in July after years of delays.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

WOODHAVEN — Less than a month after Karina Vetrano was murdered at Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach, eight security cameras went up around the perimeter of the park.

The NYPD cameras were funded by Borough President Melinda Katz — who, after announcing them at a community town hall, said she wished they'd been there sooner.

Neighbors had complained for years for more security and cameras at the marshy park, noting at the same meeting that it took a tragedy for it to happen.

But the speed in which they were installed is a sharp contrast to the way other cameras are put up.

In nearby Forest Park, years passed after one parkgoer was murdered and several others were sexually assaulted — including a teenage girl — before security cameras were finally put up in July. The cameras were originally supposed to go up in 2014.

Alex Blenkinsopp, the director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which pushed for the cameras in Forest Park, said the difference in the city's response in Howard Beach was notable.

"Unfortunately it took something truly heinous to get cameras installed [in Howard Beach]," Blenkinsopp said. "It is striking, though, that cameras were installed within weeks of this tragedy. As we've seen in Woodhaven, that's not always the case."

Elected officials and other leaders pushed for cameras in Forest Park after six sex assaults in the park between March 2011 and August 2013, which are all linked to one suspect, police said. 

The attacks targeted joggers and other parkgoers, and the suspect — who is still at large — used a stun gun for one attack, and targeted a 13-year-old girl in another.

Assemblyman Mike Miller and state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo allocated money for the cameras in 2013, but red tape held it up, officials said.

"The money was earmarked but still we waited, and waited, and waited," Blenkinsopp said. 

While the community waited, a man was beaten to death at the park and there were multiple robberies and car break-ins just outside the green space.

A spokesman with the NYPD defended their timeline for installing cameras in Howard Beach, but did not answer questions on how long it's taken for other cameras to be installed.

The department said the camera installation outside Spring Creek Park, where Vetrano was killed, "was part of a larger project" to install cameras throughout Queens.

"Following the murder at Spring Creek Park, the installation of cameras in the immediate area of the park was necessary and served a legitimate law enforcement purpose," the spokesman continued.

Ed Wendell, also of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association, noted that "it's amazing how fast [the city] will jump when something horrible happens."

"It's one of the lessons sometimes," he said.

The new cameras in Howard Beach show "that bureaucracy can move quickly if it wants to," Blenkinsopp added.

"We just wish the powers that be would listen to residents warnings about dangerous conditions so that cameras are installed to deter and prevent murders, not afterwards — whether it's a few weeks after or a whole year."