Slowed Surveillance Camera Program Faltering in Philadelphia

phillypoliceIn the big city, the cameras have gone dark. The watchful eyes have gone blind, and crime is allowed to roam with the tool of surveillance neutralized. The city of Philadelphia is supposed to have 250 surveillance cameras patrolling the streets and protecting their citizens, but the program has become neglected and gone awry.

In late 2007, Philadelphia government announced its plan to install 250 surveillance cameras by 2008. Unfortunately, it’s now 2009 and only 161 cameras have been installed. Out of these 161, only 98 of these cameras are usable and another 63 are sitting there waiting to be activated. The 63 cameras that are being unused have been covered in black plastic bags.

City Councilman Frank Rizzo is on the public safety committee and says they could at least be used as decoys until activation. “You know how many people put little stickers on their window? XYZ, ABC Alarm Company and there’s no alarm in the house? It’s a deterrent,” Rizzo said.

But how are they deterring anybody, if they have black plastic bags on them? Contradictory to Rizzo, the city states that it doesn’t want the public to think the cameras are working when they’re not.

As expected, the 98 cameras that are working have become a valuable tool for the police. Law Enforcement officers have stated that these cameras have made it easier to catch criminals and identify suspects. “I think it’s great. It’s been an excellent crime fighting tool, I found so far, in the short time we’ve been using it,” said Lt. Thomas Woltemate of the Philadelphia Police.

The city says it would like to have all cameras operating, but the installations were slowed when they decided to switch from wireless connections to fiber optic lines. There are also reports that the city’s struggling economy is dragging the process. This reasoning doesn’t seem to take into account that when a city’s economy is struggling and there is uncertainty, the best thing that authorities can offer is security.

“I feel safer thinking somebody will see something. That’s the way they catch a lot of crimes these days, somebody’s camera,” said Ramona Thrower of Mount Airy.

The city promises the bags will be coming off soon and more cameras are coming, and October is the new deadline for all 250 of the cameras to be up and running.

(Via ABC News)

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