Park hoops dilemma creates unnecessary divisions in city

The City of Williamsport has spent $500,000 and four years developing a security camera setup to detect and prevent crime.

Of the 10 cameras operating, four are in Memorial Park.

But those four cameras failed to detect litterbugs in the park Easter Sunday.

After the trashing, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, with admitted regret, ordered city crews to take down the basketball hoops, rims, poles and backboards in the park permanently.

The mayor says he’s trying to prevent a repeat of the shooting tragedies at Flanigan Park.

Residents aren’t happy about the hoops shutdown, feeling their area is being unfairly targeted. They say the real problem is police not showing proper presence in the park which will lead to what they call a “great divide” between law enforcers and city youth.

And council members, particularly Council President Bill Hall, are questioning the effectiveness of the surveillance system.

Hall’s questions got plenty of blowback from the mayor and Police Chief Gregory Foresman, who accused Hall of being soft on crime, despite his backing of the recommendations from the administration and police leadership on both the surveillance cameras and the police force’s size.

We doubt taking hoops away from the park is going to guarantee the elimination of potential violence in the park. The best hedges against that are responsible citizens and heightened city police presence.

And we’re sure skewering council presidents over legitimate questions about a system that cost $500,000 and doesn’t appear to be working as planned won’t solve anything.

Instead, council and the mayor should be evaluating whether two more policemen should be added to the force. Yes, it would cause a budget crunch. But most city residents understand our police force has to be the top priority right now.