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Pittsburgh police laud Downtown surveillance cameras

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 8:20 a.m.

A network of private and public security cameras Downtown has aided Pittsburgh police in several recent investigations, including the arrest of a teen accused of punching a teacher, officials said on Wednesday.

Detectives reviewed video from a Pittsburgh Cultural Trust camera that shows a boy, 15, emerge from a group of six and attack James Addlespurger, 50, as he walked down Tito Way on Oct. 4. Police released the footage this week, which led to the identification and arrest of the youth, who police did not identify because of his age. He was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

“Without the camera, we would've had no idea who he was,” Detective Al Flemm said.

The teen told investigators he was having a bad day when he struck Addlespurger without provocation. Zone 2 Cmdr. Eric Holmes said police have added patrols Downtown because of an increase in students hanging around as schools dismiss for the day,

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. estimated that business surveillance cameras cover 45 percent to 50 percent of Downtown. They are supplemented by public cameras.

“The technology worked for the benefit of the public,” Zappala said.

When a driver dragged a woman along Fifth Avenue and then fled on Sept. 18, detectives watched a video of the incident captured by Highmark surveillance cameras. The video showed Keonna Whetsell walking in the crosswalk at Fifth Avenue near Liberty Avenue when a car closely passed her, police said. Whetsell swung her umbrella at the windshield, then the driver backed up and Whetsell spoke to her through the passenger window, eventually lunging inside, police said.

The driver, identified as Kathy Snell, 29, of Mt. Lebanon, drove away, dragging Whetsell down Fifth Avenue.

Police charged Snell with careless driving, causing an accident involving injury and recklessly endangering another person.

A Heinz History Center surveillance camera helped detectives in July when William Ringo told officers he was punched by a man in a group for no reason as he walked on Smallman Street. After police released the surveillance video, they got a tip identifying the assailant and the four people he was with, according to a criminal complaint. Police charged Carlos Aguilar, 21, of Bristol, near Philadelphia, with aggravated assault.

“They're a great tool for us,” Flemm said of the cameras. “That's one of the first things we do is look to see where the cameras are at.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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