Hidden Cact-Eye: Paradise Valley installs cameras in cactus

The City of Paradise Valley has added cactus with cameras in them over the past few days, but residents have no idea why, and the city doesn't want to talk about them.

About two dozen fake cactus already serve as cover for cell towers, but some people were alarmed to see cameras being place in cactus around town.

While town leaders didn't initially want to talk with us about the cameras, we did end up getting some explanation.

If you look close enough at the cactus as you drive through Paradise Valley and you might see some "cact-eyes" looking back.

"I've lived here for 30 years, and I've never seen cameras in a saguaro before," said Randy Evans.

One cactus camera was installed at the roundabout near 40th Street and Standford on Tuesday.

"There were these guys on ladders, these were 3 1/2 foot ladders, and they work working on the top of the cactus, putting the cactus together, a fake cactus," said Susanne Chamberlain.

Residents are now curious what the cameras will be used for.

"Your guess is as good as mine," said Evans.

"I thought maybe y'all knew what it was," said Chamberlain.

FOX 10 asked Paradise Valley Police about the cameras, but they said they were not prepared to make a statement at this time. At City Hall people were also hesitant to talk with FOX 10 about the cameras, saying they wanted to wait until all the cameras were installed, but eventually the Town Manager answered some of the questions.

"The town is embarking on the installation of license plate readers," said Kevin Burke, Paradise Valley Town Manager.

Burke says the cameras run license plates of cars against a hot list database. If the car is stolen, or the subject of an amber alert, the police will be notified.

FOX 10 did a story in February about the same technology being installed on traffic lights, the city also declined to talk publicly then too.

So why is the city not being public about this? 

"Again, not trying to hide anything, the police department, this was my request of before we get going at these one at a time, lets get them all together and make sure we understand and everybody is on the same page," he said.

Burke said the cameras are not active at this point.

"We want to make sure we're answering everybody's questions about data retention, how the things will be used, we want to make sure that is vetted before we turn these things up," said Burke.

Some would say they should have been vetted before they went up.

"It probably is fair, this is technology, we're always learning about it, and so every time you think you've got it covered someone brings up a new idea," he said.

Burke said the cameras are not being put in fake cactus to be secretive, but because there are no light poles in the area to put them on. He says they're trying to make the cameras aesthetically pleasing. It's all part of a $2 million police technology upgrade the council passed last year.
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