NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A 10 On Your Side investigation into Norfolk parking garage surveillance cameras revealed in some cases they may be giving people a false sense of security.
“We thought we were in the safest place in the garage. It was the most lit, it had a camera right above the car, and we were right next to the elevator,” said Newport News resident Jack Rowsey, a paraplegic whose specially fitted 2011 Dodge Charger was stolen from the Boush Street City Owned Parking Garage on February 11.
We want to point out it is your responsibility to lock your car and put valuables out of sight in the glove compartment or trunk. However, with disabled drivers there’s also a lot going on just to get in and out of the car, and unfortunately, a key fob was mistakenly left in the back seat of Rowsey’s vehicle.
“We knew there was a camera right above my car, and I can’t get anyone to pull, or pinpoint a picture or a mug shot from the video to show who did this,“ Rowsey said back in February.
What Rowsey didn’t know, the surveillance camera which is advertised on the front of the parking garage with the words “Garage monitored by surveillance cameras” would produce no images because it was inoperable.
“I’m disappointed. I chose to park here when the sign said there was surveillance cameras 24-7, and to find out there was none, was disappointing,” said Rowsey.
10 On Your Side set out to find out why the cameras at that garage are down. We discovered much more. Eight of Norfolk’s 12 Parking Garages have no surveillance cameras operating, and the city confirmed they haven’t been operating for about a year and a half.
The following garages have inoperable cameras and/or servers:
- Main Street
- Freemason Street
- Boush Street
- West Plume
- Town Point
- York Street
WAVY went straight to the top to Norfolk’s Director of Parking Ray Stoner and asked him how the city got so far behind, with so many cameras not working in many city owned parking garages,.
“I can’t speak to that. I wasn’t here during that time, so I can’t answer that question,” said Stoner.
Stoner’s quick to point out he’s only been Director since October 2021. “I wasn’t managing the city assets at that time.”
As the Director of Parking, 10 On Your Side asked if he is troubled that so many parking garage cameras are not working. “It’s definitely a focus of ours to get as much money as we can to get them up and running,” Stoner responded.
As part of our investigation, we visited all eight parking garages in question, and we noticed two corrections had already been made following our inquiry.
The city placed plastic bags over the non-working cameras to let the public know, including the one Jack Rowsey parked under.
10 On Your Side asked Stoner if this change was made following our report in February.
“The timing of the story, a review of what cameras are not working, yes, that was part of the reason we covered the signs,” he said.
The second correction, signs claiming the Parking Garage was being monitored by surveillance cameras were covered up so as not to advertise something that simply isn’t true.
We pointed out to Stoner there are still signs out front, including the Boush Street Garage where Rowsey parked that are not covered. He said, “Well, OK, they will need to be covered.”
True to his word, shortly after our interview Ray Stoner took care of that, and we got video of the crew putting up the sign cover.
Stoner added that what we’re reporting on is part of the infrastructure problems with budget shortfalls here in Hampton Roads and across America. “Cameras have a shelf life of 5-10 years, and then they need to be replaced,” Stoner said.
But there is good news. Norfolk has approved a budget to include $267,000 to replace cameras in all eight parking garages. A City spokesperson said there’s a four-phase plan to replace all of the cameras and equipment, with the work expected to be complete by FY 2024.
The replacement schedule for the garages is as follows:
- Waterside FY22
- Town Point FY22
- Main Street FY23
- Freemason Street FY23
- Boush Street FY23
- West Plume FY23
- Scope FY24
- York Street FY24
The city also provided this statement:
“Installing and replacing cameras is a priority. In 2014, Parking was aware that the existing cameras were nearing the end of their useful life and began developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for new/replacement equipment. Before the RFP was posted, the City’s direction was to ensure that all technology met standards set by Information Technology as they were in the process of standardizing cameras citywide. After extensive analysis, an RFP for cameras was issued in 2016. Since the award, cameras were installed in Bank Street, Charlotte Street and Hilton Main garages.”
As for Jack Rowsey, police found his stolen car, without the key fob. Luckily the car was not damaged. He credits our reporting showing his license plate for getting the person who stole the car to ditch it, “I believe being on social media, the story running so quickly right after it happened caused whoever stole it got scared, parked it, and abandoned it in an area where it was eventually found by a cop.”
He thanks social media too.
“All the social media helped, and I am extremely grateful to WAVY 10, especially to you, because no other news station would give us the time of day to report it and you did.”