U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., strode down the middle of Monterey Street in the Central Northside.
In the bright morning light, Casey squinted up at a glass orb perched high on a pole above the street.
“So that’s it, huh?,” Casey asked. Commander RaShall Brackney, head of the Pittsburgh Police’s Zone 1 station, nodded.
“I remember walking out of a building and noticing one of these things and only realizing it was a camera hours later,” Casey said. “They’re very unobtrusive.”
Casey’s announcement of his attempt to earmark another $2 million in federal funding for additional city security cameras prompted the walking tour on April 8. Chief Nate Harper, Northside city council members Darlene Harris and Daniel Lavelle and Pittsburgh’s City Information Systems project manager Gwendolyn Moorer also attended the tour.
City Information Systems is the department working on deploying the security cameras.
The Monterey Street security camera is one of 22 that city police have located throughout the city and one of four on the Northside.
Separately, Council President Harris has also helped most neighborhoods in her district receive city funds for community cameras. Perry Hilltop and Fineview have received funding but have yet to deploy their cameras, and Harris said funding for Summer Hill and Deutschtown will materialize in the next few weeks.
At a press conference after the tour, Brackney said security cameras had already helped police solve three recent crimes, the most serious of which was the shooting death of retired fireman Mark Barry in Brightwood.
“Our officers were able to view the cameras and find the perpetrators,” which were two Northside teens, Brackney said.
The same camera also helped police nab a burglar, and a camera off of W. North Avenue helped police identify an individual who robbed a jitney driver.
“Ultimately this is about creating safe neighborhoods,” Brackney said.
The $500,000 that Casey helped secure on the most recent budget will be used to add at least two police-monitored cameras to each neighborhood over the next 2 to 3 years. If Casey is successful in getting the $2 million approved, this could provide an additional 100 cameras, since deploying each camera unit costs between $15,000 and $20,000.
“I believe every public official has an obligation to do anything they can to stop crime,” Casey said.
The earmark has to clear the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and both houses of congress to become final, the success of which, “I can’t predict,” Casey said.
Including the neighborhood cameras, those owned by the stadiums, Allegheny General Hospital and small private businesses, Harper said police have access to more than 300 exterior security cameras around the city.
“Every neighborhood wants a beat cop,” Harper said. “But because we know that’s not possible, we are able to put technology in these neighborhoods.”
Commanders in each zone have direct access to live feeds from each of the 22 city-owned cameras. But Moorer said detectives are usually the ones who view the recorded tapes.
After Harris finds funding for cameras in Summer Hill and Deutschtown, she hopes to fund more community cameras in Brightwood. Each neighborhood’s set of four cameras cost $5500 and are not as technologically advanced as the police-owned models.