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Chief wants cameras to eye Irwin Park drug activity, vandalism

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

For vandals and drug users, Irwin Park is more fun at night.

At least that's what Irwin police Chief Roger Pivirotto says. And that's why Pivirotto is recommending that the borough install a video surveillance system in several areas of the park as a deterrent.

In a report submitted to Irwin Council, Pivirotto said a surveillance system would deter the “undesirable element from trespassing and committing crimes in the park” and help authorities identify and prosecute trespassers.

Council President Robert Wayman said worries about what goes on in the park after it closes has prompted officials to look for ways to address the problem.

“I think the chief is forward-thinking in his approach to dealing with the problem and has given us some ideas to consider,” he said.

During the past several months, officials have been working on a plan to improve security by outfitting sections of the borough building, as well as the police department and public-works facility, with video surveillance systems.

Pivirotto recommends that cameras be installed in four locations — the Little Knights Kingdom playground, the exterior of the concession stand, the picnic pavilion and the amphitheater.

He said the Little Knights Kingdom playground, which is located in woods south of the park's main area, “has become a draw for drug users and vandals because of its secluded location.”

The elaborate wooden play structure, which is about 20 years old, no longer is used because the bridge to access it became unstable and had to be closed in 2012. At the time, borough officials estimated it could cost as much as $75,000 to repair the bridge. The playground also has fallen into disrepair and is overgrown with weeds.

The chief noted in his report that the concession stand has been targeted by vandals in the past and that the pavilion and amphitheater are used for illegal activity because they offer a measure of concealment.

Pivirotto is recommending that any surveillance system that is installed be capable of operating around the clock in all weather and lighting conditions and capture video at a “frame rate” that provides sufficient resolution to allow facial recognition to help authorities identify people who use the park for illegal activity.

The cameras used should be motion activated and connected to a digital video recorder that can hold up to 30 days of footage, he said. In addition, the system should be able to “stream” live video to a monitor in the police station or other location.

A cost estimate for the system has not been developed, but Pivirotto noted that cameras and wiring for a system that was installed in the park a number of years ago “but never worked” could possibly be incorporated into a new system.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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