The tragedy at the Oakwood club house brings the subject of crime and security in Lakeland to my focus. I took it upon myself to reach out to and meet with various law enforcement professionals regarding crime and how to improve our city’s security. One thing in particular that stood out in these discussions is that, “crime follows the interstate.” I was told that several criminals, caught in Lakeland, told law enforcement that the reason they are coming to Lakeland is that the new interstate interchange makes it easy to for them “escape.” They also confessed that the interchange quickly gives them two different “interstate” directions they can take. Unfortunately, this only gives Law Enforcement a 50/50 guess as to which direction they headed.

With this information, I started thinking about the interchange and security cameras. In my opinion, we should have invested in public safety by considering security cameras instead of, or in conjunction with traffic light cameras for the interchange when it was constructed. It may have actually cost less initially vs. adding them now. If we had these type “high definition cameras,” it would give law enforcement additional information assuming the offender(s) exited Lakeland using the interstate interchange.

When thinking about the tragedy in Oakwood, if we had these high definition cameras, strategically placed at specific intersections around the city, law enforcement would not only have a witness’s description of the car, but also license plate information that would help solve the crime. This would in turn bring justice to the victims and their families, which they deserve. Therefore, I believe that researching the feasibility of adding high definition security cameras with the ability to recognize and store license plate numbers at key locations around the city is a good idea. The idea at this point is just that; an idea. I am the type of leader that brings people together (citizens, city officials, and law enforcement) to discuss options and solutions. I do not and will not dictate solutions; I value diversity of opinion. That said, and in the true spirit of transparency, one potential issue with this idea is one of privacy. If we were to put something like this in place, I would want to stipulate that any and all information ONLY be retrieved by law enforcement and ideally, through the order of a judge, not by citizens, HOA leaders, or politicians. This system would only be in place for public safety reasons: to gather information that helps catch criminals, not to empower others to keep tabs on citizens.

My team and I have started brainstorming and gathering information on cameras, locations, expected costs, etc. This case study will take time and input from numerous sources in order to produce a solution, whatever that may be. I am “process-oriented” and do not believe in pre-determined outcomes to problems, as it stifles creativity and freedom of thought. If you feel you have any information on this matter or other ideas that could improve the community in any way, please feel free to reach out to me.

Looking out for ALL OF YOU!
Mike Cunningham
Candidate for Mayor of Lakeland