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New cameras help police keep an eye out

If you felt like someone was watching you last weekend as you explored Leprechaun Days' Mid-Summer Faire, you weren't far off.

Rosemount police officers wandered the crowd in Central Park, but the police also had an eye on things from above all day and all night.

The police department's new eye in the sky -- it looks a little bit like an air conditioner crossed with a streetlight -- was set up last week in Central Park to make sure police didn't miss anything that happened as Rosemount residents celebrated. The $33,000 rig, which police bought late last fall with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, provided a permanent record -- recorded onto a computer hard drive -- of just about everything that happened in the park.

Police can monitor the cameras remotely from a laptop if they want, but police chief Gary Kalstabakken said so far the department has mostly used it as a monitoring tool in areas where there have been problems with vandalism or car break-ins.

The department used the cameras last winter around well houses and warming houses and in the parking lot at RHS hockey games.

"We'll move it around as we have some problems," Kalstabakken said. "In this case, we knew we were having an event so we put it down there. The last few weeks of school we moved it to Rosemount High School because of the senior pranks.

"Cameras can be a deterrent, and, particularly with the warming house or a well house, typically there's no one in the park. Once it gets to be night time, there's no one there to see or report anything," Kalstabakken said.

It's hard to know just how effective the cameras are. Police haven't had problems with vandalism in areas where the cameras have been set up, but Kalstabakken can't say for certain whether that's because of the cameras were there to keep an eye on things. Police have not made any arrests as a direct result of the cameras.

The cameras cover a wide area, but Kalstabakken said officers can block out zones of the coverage if they're not interested in what's happening in that area.

The cameras haven't been put out in the field much yet, but, Kalstabakken expects them to get more use now that officers are getting more familiar with them and what they can do.

"I think as the officers are a little more aware of it they will say, 'Let's move it over here, because we've had a problem at a well house or at a business," he said. "We can't patrol past every business at every hour, but let's move our camera out there.

"It's not doing any good in our garage, so we will move it around."