While the New Canaan Police Department cannot spare an officer to patrol Irwin Park exclusively, authorities are recommending use of motion-activated trail cameras to help catch irresponsible dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets, officials said Wednesday night.
According to Sally Campbell, chair of the Parks & Recreation Commission, video footage that matches dog owners with their cars would be the “best way” to identify violators.
Police have “asked us to explore with IT what time of camera to use and the only a type of camera we are able to use is a game camera,” Campbell said during the commission’s regular meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.
“So we acquired a few of those and are trying to figure out how to best use them.”
The comments come as the commission explores ways to address a nasty problem at Irwin Park—as well as Waveny, among other public places—where people with dogs do not pick up after the animals. The commission formed a committee to work on the problem. Recently, one local woman has led an effort to place ‘Shame On You’ flags on abandoned dog waste at Irwin—a practice that will need to be halted soon, at least for a time, as the Parks Department will start mowing the grass there.
The commission itself appeared divided on the question of cameras at Irwin.
Commissioner Hank Green, a member of the ‘Dog Litter Committee,’ said, “I don’t love the idea that there is a camera watching me.”
Campbell responded that the commission has not “totally decided that this is what we will do.”
“But we thought this would be the most effective way to get people to take notice that they will get fined,” Campbell said.
She added that local news outlets may help deter offenders by publishing the names and mugshots—if such exist for violating the local ordinance—of those ticketed for failure to clean up after their dogs.
Under Section 108-8 of the Town Code, those who don’t pick up their dog’s mess can be ticketed $90 per offense: “The owners and/or keepers or any person having custody or control of any dog on any public street, public sidewalk, or public parking lot, or within any public park, public playground, or public school grounds shall promptly remove all feces left by the dog on such public areas and dispose of such feces in a sanitary manner.”
If the bad behavior on the part of dog owners persists, Campbell said, New Canaan may consider following the lead of other towns and banning dogs outright from designated parks such as Irwin.
Commissioner Francesca Segalas, also a member of the committee, said police are open to issuing more tickets to address the problem, and that there are environmental and health-related concerns at stake. Unlike horse or cow dung, she said, dog waste is “toxic” because the animals eat meat, and it pollutes water systems if it’s not disposed of properly.
Town Council Vice Chairman Sven Englund, a guest at the meeting, asked how long the images captured on the would-be trail cameras would be preserved.
Campbell said the cameras were “a suggestion on how to try to issue tickets to people.”
“This is just suggestion and we are hoping that by bringing it up people are going to be more aware and more courteous and we do not want to get to the point where we have to ban dogs from the parks.”