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Pittsburgh has just joined the growing list of cities that has decided to use surveillance cameras as a method for fighting and deterring crime.
In an announcement on March 27, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced that the first of the cameras will be installed soon in the Mexican War Streets.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said that the cameras will help reduce crime and provide more tools for local law enforcement.
“I am excited to give our officer and our communities yet another tool that will help them prevent and solve crimes and keep our neighborhoods safe,” Ravenstahl said. “We’re using 21st century technology now more than ever – whether its computers in police vehicles or cameras in our neighborhoods – we are improving the safety of our residents.”
David McMunn, the president of the Mexican War Streets Society, believes that the cameras will improve the situation in the area, and that it will prevent crime.
“In order to promote and grow the Northside, potential residents and businesses need to know that someone is paying attention to our neighborhoods safety and quality of life,” McMunn said. “I believe these cameras will greatly improve public safety in our neighborhoods and just knowing someone is monitoring them at all times should deter criminals.”
The camera provider is Avrio Group, chosen in part because of their work in other cities, including Phoenix and St. Paul, as well as their security work during both the Republican and Democratic Conventions last year.
The group will be deploying a network of wireless cameras that will detect license plates, gunshots and other events. Pittsburgh has identified 34 locations and will purchase 20 to 80 camera systems. The Avrio Group cameras will be incorporated into any existing camera networks as well.
Public Safety Director Michael Huss said that they had taken steps to ensure the privacy of the average citizen and had been in talks with the ACLU and the Constitution Project.
“We will closely monitor access to camera footage to ensure that our citizens’ privacy is protected,” he said. He added that only authorized public safety officials can view the footage.
The city has received money from other sources to help pay for the new system, including more than $2.5 million from the Department of Homeland Security and more than $600,000 from the state for port security. The Homeland Security grant requires a 25 percent match.
Avrio Group is not new to cameras on the Northside, however, as a partnership with The Northside Leadership Conference involved a surveillance camera at the corner of East Ohio Street and Cedar Avenue. As part of the six-month program, which later turned into a donation, officials were able to see the system and test its capabilities.
Executive Director Mark Fatla credits this camera and the system for reducing street crime and creating a better neighborhood climate, as well as garner more police involvement.
The first of the cameras should be installed within the next month.