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New Charleroi cameras helping cops catch criminals in the act

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Chris Buckley | The Valley Independent
Charleroi Regional Police patrolman Collin Griffith views a feed from surveillance cameras erected throughout downtown Charleroi.

In December, Patrick Garman was having lunch with John Mollenauer when Garman asked the mayor-elect why he wanted the job.

“He said, ‘Because I've got to do something for my community. I don't want to do the same old thing that's not working.'” From that conversation, Mollenauer introduced Garman, administrator at Spartan Health Surgicenter in Carroll Township, to then-Council President Mark Alterici and the current and incoming council members. That first goal was to take back the town, they decided.

With Garman, who recently moved to Charleroi, leading an aggressive fundraising campaign in the business community, more than $12,000 was donated. The goal was to install state-of-the-art surveillance cameras in downtown.

At a press conference Wednesday morning in the borough community room, Mollenauer, Garman and Councilman Larry Celaschi Jr. spoke about the success of the cameras in catching criminals in illegal activity.

The community leaders were joined by councilmembers Ed Bryner and Debbie Kruell Buck.

And the initiative is growing.

Celaschi said the initial plan was to get a handful of surveillance cameras installed in downtown Charleroi. Twenty five cameras have been installed to date. Celaschi said the next goal is to take the technology into the residential neighborhoods, Celaschi said.

Asked the timetable for that, Celaschi laughed when he said, “today.”

“Our goal is to rebrand the image of Charleroi,” Celaschi said. “We all are united here and want to elevate expectations for this community. This successful effort will not only help make our town a safer place, but it will provide an ever-increasing tool of presence to assist our police in fighting crime.

“If you commit a crime out in the open in this town, you will be recorded and without any reservation, our police and this community will find you.”

Charleroi Regional Police Chief Eric Porter said the first week the cameras were installed downtown, officers observed a drug deal under way and immediately made arrests. Porter said police have observed on the cameras everything from people intoxicated downtown to finding suspects wanted on outstanding warrants.

“Having these cameras is like adding another 20 sets of eyes,” Porter said.

Ron Mozer, owner of Crystalline Technology, gave a PowerPoint demonstration on the video technology. In video feed from one camera in Monessen, a drug deal is observed. The seller looks up and realizes he is being observed on camera and speaks an obscenity toward the camera.

His firm installed the cameras for the borough. He said the cameras are also having a positive effect on crime prevention in Monessen as well as Donora. Police can watch the camera feeds from a large screen high-definition television in the regional police station in Charleroi as well as from their smart phones.

“Where the cameras are, crime is reduced,” Mozer said.

Charleroi Councilman Paul Pivovarnik said Wednesday's press conference – which was attended by various members of the community as well as business leaders – coincided with the first anniversary of council unveiling no tolerance zones for crime through the borough.

“I believe this is a significant day in the history of Charleroi,” Mollenauer said. “Call it camera day.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or