Gold Hill considers methods to thwart vandals

GOLD HILL — Retired security expert Mark Schmaus has two words for city officials and local business owners tired of vandals destroying private and public property:

Video surveillance.

A telecommunications and security expert, Schmaus has offered free consulting services to business owners and officials who want to enhance security of their property.

Schmaus, who lives just outside city limits near the sports park, said he's watched "punks" at the city's park having fun at the city's expense nearly every week.

Trash cans set ablaze. Portable toilets ruined. Costly damage to a park already in need of funding for improvements.

"I've seen them out, drunk and being stupid, doing doughnuts with their cars, ripping up the lawn all the time, setting trash cans on fire," Schmaus said.

"Several days later, the city sends a backhoe or grader to straighten out the mess that was made.

"If you figure every week over 52 weeks a year, a couple cameras and a recorder would save quite a bit of money. Anytime they found damage, all they'd have to do was review the recording."

Ray's Food Place Manager Terry Edwards said cameras outside his store along the city's main street have "definitely been a deterrent."

Guadalajara Manager Miguel Castro said cameras might be "better than nothing."

"Even when the city had a police department, things were happening," he said.

Castro's Fourth Street restaurant has experienced multiple thefts and vandalism, including a burglary during which his safe was taken from the building.

"Just to think about somebody breaking in and taking the safe away from the restaurant and nobody notices anything," Castro said.

"I think the cameras sound like a good idea, a little more security businesswise, and this way you are going to know who did it. If someone stole a safe, cameras would help catch them."

Gold Hill Pharmacy owner Alex Frum said without a police department, the small town could do little to recoup damages.

"My biggest concern is somebody spending a lot of money on video stuff without having anybody to enforce it," Frum said.

"I mean, we don't have a police department here anymore, but this could show us the need for one."

Mayor Gus Wolf said the city's finances are stretched thin already, but the council likely will address Schmaus' idea in the spring.

Schmaus said he could outfit the downtown with 16 cameras for about $25,000 if city officials were willing to provide free labor.

"I'm just a retired guy with expertise in the field and I'd like to help out," he said.

"I think if the word got out that video surveillance was forthcoming, it might make people think."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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