Backyard feud fueled by use of videocams
By LIN YOUNG
Published March 21, 2007
One neighbor describes the gay couple as the unofficial "Welcome Wagon" to their mobile home park.
Many residents in the over-55 park on 66th Street N share Mark Mayka's favorable view of David Adair and Michael Gaudette - except the neighbor who lives behind them.
According to a Pinellas County sheriff's report, that neighbor, Darrell Damron, doesn't think the couple should live there.
Damron, self-described in the report as a veteran with health problems, admitted to the deputy that he yelled at the couple and told them "he hated gays" and wanted them "out of here." Damron declined comment for this article.
In Deputy Edward Diluzio's Feb. 6 incident report, Damron described the pair as troublemakers whose television volume is turned too high. He also said they threw rocks on his roof.
Damron also told the deputy that he installed video surveillance cameras and complained the neighbors blocked his view with tarps.
Neighbors Sis Campbell and Mayka scoffed at the notion that the couple would throw rocks. They are considered good neighbors who cook food for neighborhood shut-ins, Mayka said.
The tarps went up because with four cameras trained on his home and yard, Adair said he wasn't comfortable doing daily chores or sitting on the patio of his home without feeling his every move was being watched.
A local security firm owner seems to agree, adding that it might be "an invasion of privacy" to point cameras at someone else's house. Generally, customers want video surveillance inside homes to check on babysitters and watch for pilferage, or cameras outside the home for security , said Mike Peros, owner of Privacy Electronics.
"He sees my comings and goings all the time, I feel like I'm being stalked. And the police say he can," said Adair.
"If you're minding your own business, and you're not causing any trouble - you have sort of a right to be ignored. It seems like all those cameras would kind of violate that right to inattention," said Mike Flaherty, a sociology professor at Eckerd College.
What the cameras do in effect is create "a round-the-clock stare," Flaherty said.
After the Feb. 6 incident, Damron removed a listening device mounted below one of the cameras that Adair said he pointed out to the deputy.
Throughout the ongoing feud, Damron has warned, "I'm recording and videotaping you," Gaudette said.
The deputy said it wasn't illegal to train cameras on them, but a listening device would be, said Gaudette. A listening device wasn't mentioned in Diluzio's report.
The first step in determining whether criminal prosecution is warranted is an incident report from the sheriff or a police department, said Kevin Kendall, court division director for the Office of State Attorney.
Because many statutes were narrowly written, civil rather than criminal remedies might apply, but his office would need to see the complaint to determine that, said Kendall.
Diluzio has since closed the case as "solved; non criminal" without referring it.
Problems began soon after the couple moved to the mobile home park last year, as soon as the neighbor discovered they were gay.
Equality Florida, an organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender and class, has never heard of video surveillance of a gay couple by a neighbor, said Brian Winfield, communications director for the group.
He said it was important to report discrimination to law enforcement agencies and his group because if Florida law doesn't define the behavior as illegal "those agencies don't take those kinds of reports."
When they have a stack of complaints, then people act, saying that "this isn't what our community represents, so let's do something about it," which is how they got laws protecting gays from discrimination passed in St. Petersburg and Gulfport, Winfield said.
[Last modified March 20, 2007, 22:13:39]
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