HOA news updates — security cameras and sinkholes

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

June 2019 — Former HOA private security guard sentenced to 30 years for murder in shooting incident. Crews stabilize an landslide and work on temporary fix for massive sinkhole threatening a condo building. Homeowners and civil rights groups speak out against License Plate Reader cameras monitoring HOA gates.

Former HOA private security guard sentenced to 30 years in prison on murder charges (VA)

Two years ago, a former Citywide Protection Service security guard, working for the River Walk homeowners association, shot and killed 60-year old Jiansheng Chen, while he was sitting in his minivan, playing Pokémon Go.

Earlier this year, a jury convicted Jonathan Cromwell of 2nd degree murder and a weapons charge, and recommended a 30-year prison sentence.

Jiansheng Chen was shot and killed on Jan. 26, 2017. The incident occurred in the River Walk community in Chesapeake, where Chen resided with his brother.

Readers may recall several earlier IAC posts on the shooting incident in the River Walk, which occurred on January 26, 2017.

Maximum sentence

Last week, a judge sentenced Jonathan Cromwell to the maximum sentence for second-degree murder, as recommended by the jury.

At trial, Cromwell pleaded self-defense, claiming Chen tried to run him over with his vehicle.

But prosecution experts presented photo evidence of shattered glass from Chen’s minivan windshield, directly beneath the vehicle. Experts explained that the position of broken glass, and the fact that Chen’s foot was found on the brake at the time he died, proves that Chen’s vehicle was not moving when he was shot.

According to additional testimony, Cromwell had been instructed to contact police officers in the event of a dangerous situation, and to avoid the use of deadly force. Other law enforcement witnesses testified that Cromwell inquired about the accuracy of his firing pattern.

Cromwell also faces a $5.35 million civil lawsuit for wrongful death, filed by Chen’s relatives. Citywide Protection Services and River Walk Community Association — the HOA for the large Virginia Beach area subdivision — are also named in that lawsuit.

News Source:

Former guard sentenced to 30 years in death of Pokemon Go-playing grandfather
Following his conviction in March, a jury recommended that Johnathan Cromwell spend a total of three decades behind bars.  Monday, June 24th 2019, 9:32 PM EDT by NBC News

Temporary fix for massive sinkhole, landslide underway at Legacy Condos (OH)

Earlier this month, IAC posted an article about the emergency evacuation of 30 residents from relatively new condominiums in Harrison, when a gigantic sinkhole threatened the stability of their building.

Residents of Legacy Condominiums began taking photos of the hillside erosion behind Building 13 in February, although reports of mudslides began as early as December 2018.

For months, concerned homeowners and residents complained to their HOA about dangerous storm water erosion. In May, the association responded by making temporary repairs. Unfortunately, with the first heavy rainfall, sand and gravel used to fill the crater was washed away.

The erosion continued, making the hole bigger than ever.

Then in June, as a massive sinkhole moved within inches of their back patios, dozens of condo owners were ordered to evacuate Building 13.

Fischer Homes was contacted by the HOA about the landslide. The developer of Legacy Condominiums says the homeowners now control the Association, and are responsible to pay for maintenance and repairs of the storm water system causing severe erosion.

After the media picked up the story, Fischer agreed to pay several thousand dollars to each evacuated homeowner for temporary housing. An engineer recommended by Fischer was consulted to implement a plan to stabilize the hillside.

The HOA board approved a plan to stop the erosion, which will cost $100,000. Now, according to a local news source, crews are repairing the hillside so that residents can move back to their homes.

However, these repairs will also be a temporary fix, as the HOA and Fischer engage in a legal battle over responsibility for a permanent solution.

News Source:

Neighbors leery as work on temporary fix at Harrison condo sinkhole underway
Work described as a ‘tiered process’ 
By Dan Griffin, WLWT 5, Updated: 11:21 PM EDT Jun 26, 2019

As expected, privacy rights advocates speak out against HOA security cameras with license plate readers (CA)

Last year, IAC wrote about a fledgling tech company, Flock Safety, which amassed nearly $10 million in seed money to develop highly sophisticated neighborhood surveillance cameras. Flock’s founders claim that their accurate License Plate Reader (LPR), a key feature of their proprietary cameras, will help solve and reduce crime.

The wireless security system works by capturing high quality still images and storing them in the cloud, where they can be retrieved upon demand, and provided to local law enforcement to aid in apprehending criminals.

To address privacy concerns, LPR software can also be configured to create a “Safe List” of vehicle information for community residents, so that the cameras will, theoretically, only scan and capture license plates of non-residents.

Another key feature is that Flock does not monitor camera footage. Instead, the HOA owns 100% of the data, and gets to decide who gains access to it.

At the time, IAC asked ‘what could possibly go wrong?

First of all, who will control access to camera footage?

In all likelihood, it will be the HOA board. Just like any other access to corporate information, homeowners and residents will only see photographic evidence that the HOA wants them to see.

The Safe List feature, in particular, is disturbing, because it encourages selective monitoring and, by extension, selective enforcement of restrictions.

Now Flock is officially in business installing license plate readers in HOA-governed communities.

And the HOA board of Torrey View subdivision contracted with Flock Security to monitor surveillance cameras that snap photos of each license plate as vehicles leave their community.

The system was put to the test earlier this month, when a burglar was spotted in the Carmel Valley community by an HOA board member. The camera did obtain a license plate number of the perpetrator, and the images were provided to San Diego Police. But the suspect has not yet been caught and taken into custody.

The relative ineffectiveness of capturing photos of license plate numbers solidifies objections of civil rights groups, including one that calls the HOA’s new LPR camera a form of ‘digital vigilante service.’ ♦


News Source:

Debate Over HOA’s License Plate Reading Camera Divides Neighborhood
By Joe Little, NBC 7
Published Jun 25, 2019 at 8:10 PM | Updated at 3:48 PM PDT on Jun 26, 2019

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