Call boxes at parks being tested as crime deterrents


Two recently renovated Clark County parks on the east side of the valley are part of a pilot program to see if a police call box can deter crime.

The call boxes are bright-colored poles topped with a solar power collector and feature a big red button that connects park visitors directly with police operators.

"They were recommended by park police," said Mary Beth Scow, Clark County commissioner for District G, which includes the newly renovated and reopened Grapevine Springs Park, 5280 Palm St.

The neighborhood park, tucked between quiet suburbia and U. S. Highway 95, is home to one of the call boxes.

"They looked at studies that showed they might be influential in deterring crime ," Scow said.

The park was already in the process of renovation when Scow took office, but she said she has kept her eye on it and helped guide it through the completion process.

"We made sure to get the neighbors involved, making recommendations of what they'd like to see in the park," Scow said.

Along with a covered playground, an exercise track, picnic tables and horseshoe pits is the yellow call box, centrally located .

"They call out directly to 311, and if there's a bigger problem, that operator can transfer it to 911 and emergency services," said Steve Corry, assistant director of the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department. "The neighborhood park seemed to be the perfect place to try this out."

The other trial police call box is about 3½ miles away, but the setting is very different.

Clark County Wetlands Park, 7050 Wetlands Park Lane, is in the midst of a major renovation, with a new visitor s center set to open next year. The 2,900-acre park is the largest in the valley . While the houses are only a stone's throw away at Grapevine Springs, Wetlands Park is much more remote.

The call box there is blue and near the new park administrative building, which is doubling as the park's information center until new interpretative exhibits are finished at the nearby visitors center.

Roy Michael, division commander for the Clark County Park Police, suggested the boxes to the county when he saw similar ones at The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2225 Village Walk Drive.

"I was walking there with my wife and saw them and they looked like a pretty good idea," Michael said. "I suggested they might be something to consider for our parks."

Michael said that instance was in 2005 or 2006 and said the use of cell phones has increased so much that call boxes may seem less useful than they were at the time.

"We're hoping to bridge a communication gap and make it so anyone can reach us if they need to in the case of a medical issue or safety problem," Michael said. "They should be a benefit for people who have lost their phones or don't have them charged. We want to make sure anyone can reach us if they need to, so we're going to see how these work."

Michael said the parks used to contract with a phone company to have pay phones on park grounds, but the phones fell victim to vandals and there came a point where replacing them made little sense.

The call boxes are made to be vandal-resistant, and similar boxes that have been in place for several years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have not been vandalized.

UNLV campus police dispatch manager Sandra Barfield said the call boxes, which call the campus police office directly, were there before she was hired in 2006, and although they don't get a lot of use, they are invaluable when they are needed.

"We've got them out in the parking areas," Barfield said. "If you lock your keys in your car, chances are your cell phone is in there, too."

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

 

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