Surveillance cameras prove worth in Valley, too
Surveillance cameras aren't found only in big cities.
Cameras are scattered throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley, helping police solve everything from burglaries to claims over who had a green light at an intersection crash.
Allegheny Township has had portable cameras for five or six years, police Chief John Fontaine said. The township bought them after having problems in one of its parks.
When there's a problem in a particular location, police can put them up.
Fontaine said the cameras have been involved in vandalism and trespassing arrests.
“This system we have works well,” he said. “Our township is large and spread out. It's tough to justify mounting a camera in one location. We need the mobility of them because we're so large.”
More often, Fontaine said police rely on private surveillance cameras, such as those used by businesses to monitor parking lots. He guessed about 80 percent of businesses have them.
Besides crimes that happen on a business' property, the cameras also sometimes capture activities nearby.
“The businesses are very cooperative with us,” Fontaine said. “If there's an incident, we review their tapes and they give us the evidence we need.”
Freeport has had surveillance cameras since fall 2009, paid for with a $21,000 state grant.
It didn't take long for the cameras to prove their worth.
Early in 2010, cameras played a role in the arrests of a man for breaking into cars, and another for burglarizing houses.
In March 2010, police said they built a burglary case against a suspect “almost exclusively” on video evidence.
A Harrison man was seen on camera walking up the middle of Market Street at 3 a.m. Officers questioned him and sent him on his way. Later, they saw images of the man entering numerous vehicles over 90 minutes.
The man later pleaded guilty to theft from a motor vehicle and possession of a controlled substance.
In May 2010, cameras caught the movements of a Tarentum man, who subsequently was arrested for two burglaries on Fourth Street. He was later sentenced to about one to two years in jail.
Not always available
Some towns want cameras, but can't get them.
Cameras are on the wish list for Plum, chief Frank Monaco said.
While there are traffic cameras at certain intersection in Tarentum, they aren't in the neighborhoods.
“We don't have the resources or cameras to install in certain spots where trouble is happening,” Tarentum police Chief William Vakulick said.
Cameras could be useful in investigating car break-ins, criminal mischief cases and drug activity, but Vandergrift doesn't have them, police Chief Joe Caporali said.
“Would I want them? Sure. They would definitely be a useful item,” he said. “It's a matter of how to fund the cost and where to place them. If the funding was available, I'd definitely be interested.”
Without cameras of its own, Harrison police rely on private cameras, as well as those set up in Sheldon Park by the Allegheny County Housing Authority, police Chief Mike Klein said. Like Tarentum, Harrison also has traffic cameras at certain intersections of Freeport Road.
“I believe they're useful. They're absolutely useful,” Klein said. “There are many already out there. They're a significant role in today's law enforcement.”
Still, Klein said he favors using cameras when needed, rather than watching all the time.
“This isn't about Big Brother watching everybody out and about,” he said. “When you equate it to a specific task in a problem area or an investigation, that's where genuine and specific use comes into play.”
New Kensington has a surveillance camera on Ninth Street and Industrial Boulevard, police Chief Tom Klawinski said. It's mainly been used in investigating traffic crashes, including two recently.
“It has come in handy several times,” he said. “We've had people claim to have red lights or green lights and with the camera, we've been able to prove otherwise.”
Police in Springdale Township asked for the help of New Kensington's traffic camera after a burglary, just on the chance it would reveal something useful.
“I was able to burn them a copy of everything that crossed the bridge in that 45-minute time period,” Klawinski said.
But how many cameras there are, and where they are, may be hard to fully know.
Some businesses do not publicize the presence of cameras, Klein said.
Authorities also aren't always willing or eager to divulge that information.
“If I have surveillance cameras in the right spots,” Klawinski said, “do I want people to know that?”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cookies for Our Troops marches on
- Most wanted fugitive caught in New Kensington
- Pedestrian struck in East Deer
- Tarentum’s Central Presbyterian celebrates its rich history
- Impact fees benefit Alle-Kiski Valley
- Trick-or-treat returns to Saxonburg after 4-decade hiatus
- Oakmont Council meeting becomes heated
- Westminster Place in Oakmont redesigned to make residents feel at home
- Google Chromebooks, apps transform instruction at Knoch High School
- Copper thieves put power workers in danger in Lower Burrell
- Hard work, faith, Habitat for Humanity equal home for young mother, son