The Lakeswood Estates Civic Association purchased its own surveillance cameras, hid them in trees pointed at key intersections, and posted signs telling would-be criminals they were being watched.
"We don't want to catch them breaking into our house. We want to stop them from breaking into our homes, we want to send a message that says don't come into Lakewood, don't prey on us, we're watching," civic association president Judy Ellis explained.
However, the signs were illegal.
"The city came flying in and said, ‘Hey, you've got to get those out of here,' " Ellis recalled.
A year and a half later, the St. Petersburg City Council will consider changing the city's sign ordinance to allow video surveillance warnings that would be posted below crime watch signs.
Assistant city attorney Mark Winn said the language was carefully crafted to minimize legal exposures to the city.
"You don't want to make people feel so secure that they don't take normal safety precautions," Winn explained. "It says private, not the city video surveillance, and it says it may be under video surveillance, not that it is under video surveillance."
He added that Lakewood Estates' own signs were out of bounds because they were posted on the public right of way, not on private property.
The ordinance also suggests neighborhood associations will have to pay for the video surveillance signs: The city has a limited amount of money for the signs, which is expected to be quickly consumed.
City council members have said other neighborhood associations either have cameras or want cameras, and view the warning signs as a necessary component.
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