The Santa Barbara Downtown Parking Dept. is installing new video surveillance equipment in local parking facilities to increase employee and shopper safety.

An armed and masked suspect robbed parking kiosks in three separate city-owned parking lots earlier this year. The city contracted Los Angeles-based Metro Video Systems to install new surveillance equipment for approximately $55,000 to discourage future crime in the city’s parking facilities.

According to Downtown Parking Superintendent Victor Garza, authorities expedited the installation process due to the recent attacks on city employees.

“We have always had, in our long-range capital plan, a proj- ect to phase in the installation of security cameras in all of our parking stations and kiosks,” Garza said. “It was not until the robberies earlier this year that we decided to speed it up and install cameras in all of the kiosks right away.”

According to SBPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Riley Harwood, security footage from nearby businesses helped police officials identify and arrest 49-year-old Paul Gradias in conjunction with the January and February attacks. Although the crime spree is the first case of armed robbery in Santa Barbara parking structures in over 10 years, Harwood said the structures’ lack of security and sheltered hallways can facilitate crime.

“In the downtown corridor, [parking structures] are popu- lar places for some individuals to loiter because they have alcoves and narrow corridors,” Harwood said. “Depending on the time of day, they can be an attractive place for a variety of crimes or nuisances to take place.”

Downtown Parking operates nine lots and five structures throughout the city to provide space for approximately 3,000 vehicles.

According to Garza, the new surveillance cameras will monitor 17 ticket kiosks as well as all elevators and major access points in the facilities. Video footage will relay to a digi- tal video recorder that catalogs images as a safety precaution.

The department posted signs in November requesting patrons use exact change or credit cards in an effort to reduce the amount of money exchanged at ticket kiosks. Garza said patrons have been cooperative with the non-mandatory request.

Harwood said the department also increased the number of bicycle patrol units in neighborhood parking structures.

“Patrolling the parking structures in our downtown area is something that we routinely do,” Harwood said. “In addition to our regular vehicle patrol, we have officers that work on bicycles, and these structures are places where these officers on bicycles can be very effective.”