City officials are considering installing a camera security system at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville, shown Wednesday. The park has seen many acts of vandalism and other illegal activity that officials say are costing the city thousands of dollars. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — The City Council is considering having a camera security system installed at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls because of increased vandalism and other illegal activity there that has cost the city thousands of dollars.

City Manager Steve Daly told the council Tuesday night that people have vandalized the gazebo, amphitheater and other areas of the park, located along the Kennebec River, off Front Street. They have painted graffiti on the amphitheater and ripped up heavy metal park benches and thrown them over the railing and into the river, according to Daly.

“We recover as many of those as we can,” he said.

The $1.5 million RiverWalk opened to the public in 2018.

Police Chief Joseph Massey proposed the idea Tuesday of having cameras at the RiverWalk that would be part of the system at City Hall that records activity inside and outside the building. He said he thinks having cameras at the river park would add a level of safety and make people feel more confident spending time there. Signs would be posted at the site saying cameras are being used, which he said would serve as a deterrent for those who might commit crimes.

The cost for the camera system is $41,400, and Massey said Colby College officials have agreed to provide $30,000 to help fund the purchase. Many Colby students who live downtown park at Head of Falls. The remaining $11,400 would come from the Police Department’s drug forfeiture fund, according to Massey.


Daly said the RiverWalk is a gem and the hope is a camera system would help protect it.

“We want to maintain it, and I think this is a step in the right direction to do that,” he said.

Mayor Jay Coelho expressed concern about recording people and invading their privacy.

“I really don’t like cameras in public spaces,” he said.

Council Chair Rebecca Green, D-Ward 3, echoed his comments.

“I’m also somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of having cameras in an open space like the RiverWalk,” she said. “I realize that we do have an issue there with vandalism.”


Massey assured them that no other department except the police would have access to the recordings, unless, for instance, a crime were committed for which the District Attorney’s Office might want to view footage.

Police dispatchers at the department would be able to view the recordings live when they have time to do so, but not all of the time because they get busy, according to Massey. He said when a crime is committed at the RiverWalk, police can go back over the footage and try to identify those responsible.

A woman pauses Wednesday to enjoy the view of the Kennebec River at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville. City officials are considering installing a camera security system at the park following repeated acts of vandalism and other illegal activity that is costing the city thousands of dollars. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Massey said the Police Department does not have the staffing to have an officer at the site all the time, although officers go there and walk the area, some in uniform and some in plain clothes, according to Massey.

He said drug activity occurs commonly at Head of Falls. Green asked him if he could envision a scenario in which dispatchers see a crime occurring and officers would be able to go and stop it.

“Yes,” Massey said.

Green said she would be in favor of the system if she knew it would actually intervene in crimes.


“It seems to me that it would be difficult to apprehend someone after the fact,” she said.

Massey said police solve 70% of crimes by viewing video footage from camera systems at businesses, residences or other locations.

“It’s a future deterrent for them, and it sends a message to other folks that want to engage in that activity,” he said, adding it would be “detrimental” to not install the security system.

Councilor Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, asked Daly how much the city has spent to repair damage at the RiverWalk.

“It’s been thousands of dollars, “Daly said, “and it doesn’t happen infrequently.”

He said the city has spent much to clean, repair and recover items at the park.


Councilor Tom McCormick, an independent representing Ward 7, said he supported Massey’s proposal.

“This is just another tool in his box to keep the city safe, and that’s what we’re looking for, right?” McCormick said.

Green said she is in favor of continuing to explore the idea of installing a security system at the RiverWalk.

Daly said the proposal would come back before the City Council for consideration and a vote.

Walkers pass the Kennebec River on Wednesday as they travel along the RiverWalk at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

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