LACONIA — City officials are once again wrestling with enhancing the safety of persons and security of property at the downtown public parking garage after a spate of thefts from vehicles.
Victoria Norton of Bristol, a student at the Empire Beauty School on Main Street, who this week expressed her concerns in a letter to The Daily Sun, said that her car has been broken into twice and money and property were taken both times. Windows have been broken and doors jimmied, she continued, estimating that at least 10 vehicles belonging to fellow students and teachers have recently
been damaged and robbed. One student found her exhaust pipe choked with refuse while another lost a Bowie knife.
Norton said that there are approximately 50 students, all but two of them women, enrolled at the school." We do not feel safe parking in the garage," she remarked, "There are often suspicious men stumbling around. " She said that the students formed a buddy system to keep each other safe. "Everyone is afraid to walk alone, so none walks up there alone," she said.
Another student, whose husband drives her to school, said flatly "I'm afraid to park in the garage."
The school, Norton explained, requires its students and teachers to park in the garage when classes are in session between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.. Kevin Sullivan, who owns the building housing the school, confirmed that the lease prohibits students and teachers from parking on Main Street or in adjacent lots, which are intended for the patrons of downtown businesses. "The garage provides convenient, free all day parking," he said.
At the same time, Sullivan acknowledged that "there has been another rash of vandalism at the garage. The girls are all running scared." he noted.
City Manager Scott Myers, who parks in the garage "98-percent of the time", said that the Police Department regularly patrols it but added that other measures to tighten security have been taken or are being considered. He conceded that the stairwell is forbidding at most times and especially after dark and commented that some people prefer to walk up the ramp that takes vehicles to the middle parking level. In addition, the lights in the garage are kept lit around the clock.
Police urge all those parking in the garage to lock their vehicles securely and put anything of value out of sight
Myers said that city employees have been encouraged to use the garage on the assumption that strength in numbers will contribute to greater security. During construction of the Main Street Bridge, he said that 10 random spaces in the garage were designated and prizes awarded to the employees who parked in them.
The city has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the purchase of as many 10 surveillance camera systems for the Police Department, some of which could be deployed at the parking garage to supplement those already in place.
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