Blue light phones are a crime deterrent, provide a sense of security and offer a quick notification for emergency situations. COURTESY PHOTO

Blue-light phones to boost safety at city parks

For more than a year, City officials have pondered ways to enhance safety at Les Gove and other Auburn parks by lighting pathways, adding separate parking stalls for police officers and the like.

Coming later this year to Les Gove, two phones marked by blue lights above.

Basically direct phones to police, they are six-foot-high pedestals with blue lights on top. Many community colleges and shopping malls already employ them.

One small part of Les Gove’s next phase of improvements, said Daryl Faber, director of Auburn, Parks, Arts and Recreation.

Where employed across the nation, the devices are often found in gray, weatherproof boxes. In an emergency, one presses a red button to automatically dial the police. Many of the phones have a regular telephone keypad. Typically, the devices limit calls to about 90 seconds.

But the City expects to do much more with them, the City’s Information Technology Director Paul Haugan told City Council members Monday night.

Secret’s in the infrastructure.

Specifically, in the fiber optics that will allow the City to add wireless access points, thus extending Access Auburn — IT’s program to provide greater broadband access to more areas of Auburn. That program is already underway in south Auburn.

“It allows us to put in video cameras for monitoring as we have done in the parking lots of Les Gove Park and to move that to the back areas of the park,” Haugan said of Les Gove Park. “And with the technology we’re using, it provides access to our police officers on their iPhones and iPads so they can see this remotely — dispatch call comes in, and they can get online to see what’s going on.

“It enhances the safety for citizens and the safety for police officers,” Haugan added.

According to Auburn Police Chief Bob Lee, one common question is this: now that most people have cellphones, does Auburn really need these blue-light gizmos?

“They say ‘emergency phone’ on them,” Lee said recemtly. “With some, you purchase a camera on them, so when the person comes up to dial 911, or maybe they’re hoaxing around, you’ll be able to see who they are. But if somebody has an emergency, and they don’t happen to have a cellphone – maybe somebody stole it – you can go to this particular location, dial 911 and get an officer.”