Aldermen, Chief squabble over cameras, code enforcement in meeting

Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — A packed boardroom had front row seats to Brookhaven Aldermen Jeff Henning, Don Underwood and Brookhaven Police Chief Kenny Collins squabble over code enforcement and cameras Tuesday night. Fire Chief Jeff Ainsworth had no report for the board during Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled board meeting when Collins stepped in and the tension tightened in the air. 

Collins opened his report with a simple update over building maintenance for a trailer at the department and said it was not able to be kept due to issues. He said Ryan Holmes would have more information in the coming weeks.  

He told the board the department has radar installed in all vehicles and officers are certified in using radar. Collins made a request to host a job fair to find some new hires to build the police force. 

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“We will do an ad campaign to attract people to be officers. Departments are having issues getting people hired into law enforcement across the country. No one wants to be in law enforcement,” Collins said. “Hopefully we can attract some young people to get in this business. We are doing the best we can to get our numbers up.”

The request was approved by the board before Collins gave an update about code enforcement officers. He said the department has been working hard enforcing codes. 

One trouble location he addressed is a trailer being used by a lady in the parking lot of the old Piggly Wiggly. He said it is an eyesore but it was the landowners responsibility to handle it. Brookhaven Retail LLC, based out of New York, owns the property the trailer sits on. 

Collins told the board his opinion was the city needs to levy a fine, have a judge sign an affidavit and charge the property owner for abandoned vehicles on the property. He said Outreach Ministries have been trying to help the woman who owns the trailer get out of the situation.

Alderman Charles Caston Sr. asked if there was a sticker the department could put on vehicles. Collins told him he could deem it to be obstructing traffic on city streets and have it towed after 30 days. Private property was a different question and police have to be careful, Collins said. 

Henning asked how come the city could tear down dilapidated buildings on private property but not remove vehicles. Collins responded by saying the department needs to be real careful with private property and would need an affidavit signed by a judge before messing with private property. Underwood said “We can go in and tear their house down but we can’t tow their vehicle off of the property.” Collins looked over to the audience before responding with the same answer and said, “We need to be careful with private property.” 

“When we have a derelict house we send them a notice through mail and give them a certain number of days to deal with it and we don’t tear their house down,” Underwood said. “We can tear a house down but we can’t tow a car?” 

“I’m not going to get in trouble on private property,” Collins answered. “We are going to do it the way it needs to be done.” 

Mayor Joe Cox intervened and asked if there were any other questions for the chief. 

Henning questioned Collins about $6,000 worth of cameras being installed on AT&T poles in Rogers Circle and asked if the cameras were FUSUS compatible. Collins told him the cameras may not be FUSUS compatible but he ordered the cameras because the cameras were on sale. 

Henning told the chief, “I fully expected these cameras to be able to tie into the system and now you are telling me the cameras are not.” 

Collins told Henning the cameras go directly to the police station where the cameras can be controlled with zoom tilt and can move around. He would find out soon if the cameras tie in to the FUSUS system. 

“We can’t sit around and wait. Crime doesn’t stop. School is almost starting and we need cameras there to have an eye in the sky,” Collins said. “Some eyes are better than none. People are afraid to testify and we need to have something up over there.”

“I would ask the next time you come before us and ask for $6,000 that we don’t get misled on if maybe the cameras could tie in to this FUSUS system,” Henning said. 

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” the chief answered.

“I’m sorry I have to feel that way,” said Henning.

In the next item of business, Building Inspector David Fearn informed the board of grass cuttings coming up. 

Underwood asked Fearn, “Are you telling us we go on private property and mow grass when it hasn’t been taken care of properly?” 

Fearn said the law allows the city to do so. He added the police department could in fact issue stickers on vehicles notifying owners 30-90 days prior to fining owners $100 a day for abandoned vehicles on private properties.