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South Florida Sun Sentinel

Parking at the Broward courthouse is not as safe as you might think

By Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,


When a Weston woman answered the call for jury duty, she never imagined she would become a victim. She parked her car, as hundreds do daily, in the Third Avenue garage adjacent to the Broward County courthouse.

And when her civic duty was done, she drove off without even bothering to walk around her car to make sure everything was okay. She was in the courthouse parking garage. What could go wrong?

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But the juror learned the hard way that parking in the courthouse garage comes with a risk that, for now, just can’t be avoided. Cameras installed in the garage don’t cover every inch of ground, and even if they did, the images they capture would not necessarily be of much help.

The would-be juror, a 57-year-old Weston woman, reported for duty on Aug. 7. She parked on the second floor, backing into a space with no one parked on either side of her white, 2021 Camry. Four hours later she walked back to her car and drove home, never noticing that someone had sideswiped the car and left her with $5,000 worth of damage on the passenger side of her vehicle.

Worse, she said, when she reported the incident, she learned that the cameras in the garage only capture images of vehicles entering the building and using the ramps between parking levels. No working cameras record what happens on each floor.

“What if there’s a crazy person in the garage, or if a serious crime takes place?” said the driver, who asked not to be identified but whose account was verified by court administration and county officials. “I just can’t believe there’s nothing to help if there’s another more serious incident in the garage.”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office handles calls and complaints about the garage. So far this year there have been 200 calls for service. The average over the past three years has been one a day. None have been for felonies, and the $5,000 damage to the Weston juror’s car appears to be among the most serious.

“I am not aware of any major security events that have occurred in that lot since I’ve been chief judge,” said Jack Tuter, who has been Broward’s top administrative judge since 2017.

Officials are not able to confirm the exact placement of cameras in the garage or how much ground those cameras cover — disclosing that kind of information can compromise security, and the state’s public records laws carve out an exemption allowing local governments to withhold that information from the public.

But the county, which oversees the courthouse and the attached garage, concedes that cameras don’t cover every square inch of ground.

“No camera system does that, anywhere,” said Scott Campbell, the county’s director of facilities management. “We unfortunately did not have camera footage of the incident that the juror described, but we are aware of her complaint.”

Campbell said camera improvements are already approved in the county’s budget. “We are in the process of making improvements in cameras and in coverage.”

Until then, witnesses, jurors, lawyers and others who choose to park in the garage need to be as careful as they would be anywhere else.

And even after new cameras are installed, Campbell warned, surveillance cameras don’t usually have the kind of high resolution that would enable them to capture the license tag numbers of cars that drive off after damaging other parked vehicles.

Tuter noted that jurors in criminal cases are typically escorted to the garage from the courtroom, especially in the winter months when most juries reach their decisions after sunset.

“That’s not a practice we intend to abandon anytime soon, regardless of how many cameras are installed or operating,” Tuter said.

Rafael Olmeda can be reached at or 954-356-4457.

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