Hidden cameras along Grand Forks' greenway cause concern, but staff say they're there to help

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - “I just love it, I think it’s a great feature,” says Kim Greendahl, a Greenway Specialist with the City of Grand Forks. “In the 17 years that I’ve been here, yeah, I’ve gotten kind of close to it.”

Greendahl loves Grand Forks’ greenway - but she also knows there are some risks when it comes to using the trail system.

“I think I have natural security concerns that anyone should have - especially when I’m by myself,” she says. “It’s 2,200 acres. Two-and-a-half times the size of Central Park in New York City. There is no way we can patrol it 24/7.”

And for one user - that fear intensified when they found a camouflaged camera hidden in the trees.

“Someone did report it, an officer came out,” says Lt. Derik Zimmel, with the Grand Forks Police Department.

But it turns out, these cameras are here to help people, not hurt them.

“We have installed a few of the trail cams along the trail system. There are three of them,” says Greendahl. “Sometimes we see damage or activity that’s unfavorable. So this just gives us an opportunity to maybe try and get some more details about what’s happened.”

The cameras will also capture who’s using the trails and when.

The first camera was put in place about three weeks ago, and the other two were added Tuesday. Greendahl says the cameras are motion sensitive - and the images are downloaded every two hours. Mostly, she’s seen pictures of rustling leaves and wildlife - but the cameras have already proved their worth at least once.

“We did find one person who was doing something they probably shouldn’t have been doing,” she says.

Police say putting cameras up in public places like this isn’t illegal, but if you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know who’s watching or why -- let them know.

“Certainly, if they see something like trail cams they’re not familiar with, why it would be there, or who put it there - they find it suspicious or alarming, please give us a call. Show us where it is, and let us investigate it from there,” says Zimmel.

Because the cameras are mobile, they won’t always be in the same place -- so you might find them in new areas. But if you have concerns, you can reach out to the police department or the city.

So while the cameras may take a little getting used to, in the end -- the hope is that they’ll make the greenway a safer place for more people to enjoy.

“I just like to see people using it and and hopefully forming communities out of that,” Greendahl says.

The cameras were paid for with greenway funds.

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