New cameras catch skateboarders

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
In the three weeks since the 16 cameras were installed at James Brown Arena, many skateboarders have been caught on the property.

Big brother is bringing the hammer down on skateboarders at James Brown Arena.

New security cameras were installed there to help catch vandals and ward off vagrants.

But instead, the 16 cameras posted around the building are leading to a crackdown on what officials said has been a menace they weren't aware of - skaters.

Since the cameras went online three weeks ago, security guards have begun chasing away skateboarders who were using the wide staircases and steep rails to practice tricks.

"They still don't know how we caught them," said Richard Isdell, the chairman of the Coliseum Authority's Building and Grounds Committee.

In addition to damage caused to the steps or railings and the liability of having them on arena property, officials think the skaters also could be responsible for breaking a pair of glass doors, said Eddie Rhodes, the arena's engineering manager. It cost $300 to replace them.

Mr. Rhodes said he wished the police would do more to stop skaters downtown, but they might not be causing enough damage to warrant prosecution.

Skateboarding is rarely reported as a crime and probably is more the source of nuisance calls than actual property damage, sheriff's Lt. Tony Walden said.

Besides deterring unwanted outsiders, arena officials also hope the $15,000 spent on cameras will improve internal security, Mr. Isdell said.

Incidents that take place could be reviewed on videotape instead of relying on witness accounts, he said.

Also, there would be a video record of problems such as fights or vandalism that take place during an event at the arena, Mr. Isdell said.

Officials plan to set up a live Web feed of the cameras that staff and authority members can access from home or work with a password, he said.

Reach Justin Boron at (706) 823-3215 or justin.boron@augustachronicle.com.