Cameras keeping vigil at Vietnam memorial

On the Internet,  you can stream almost anything 24/7 – there are dog cams, hawk cams, even polar bear cams. The keepers of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Philadelphia hope the four cameras trained on the site at Front and Spruce streets will become skateboarder cams.

Lately the circular memorial made of granite has been the site of persistent vandalism. The main culprits are skateboarders who use the low walls and steps to do tricks. Almost every stone edge of the memorial has been chipped.

Terry Williams wants you to help with security.

Two years ago Williams, the president of the memorial’s fund, had four cameras installed so anyone can log on and stream live images, 24 hours a day. He wants to “crowd-source” security.

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“The original purpose for doing this was just that — people could use the camera system to help monitor the activity down there,” said Williams, himself a Vietnam War veteran. “If the word got around that a lot of people were looking at it to observe people committing illegal or immoral acts down there and could call the police, it might help serve as a deterrent.”

So far that hasn’t worked. Recently the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund spent a half-million dollars repairing damage.

Part of the problem is that the site was designed so it could not be seen from the street, in order to provide solace for visitors.

Like the national Vietnam war memorial in Washington, the Philadelphia site was designed to be apart from the normal traffic of the city.

“Initially it was to provide solace for people who served in Vietnam or families of a loved one. That was 22 years ago,” said Williams, who is planning a site redesign. “Now we’re going into the next phase — we want more people to be aware of the sacrifice and remember.”

Williams says the memorial’s enclosed granite circle will be opened up to let passers-by know it’s there, and to remove a potential hiding place for vandals.

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