| Tuesday May 31st 2016

Pittsburgh approves first round of surveillance cameras

Ending a 21-month selection process, the city of Pittsburgh today announced it has picked Maryland-based Avrio Group to deploy a network of public safety surveillance cameras, starting along riverfronts and extending into high-crime areas.privacy

The initial funding includes $3.45 million in camera funding is federal money that includes $2.59 million from the Department of Homeland Security, intended to improve port safety, and $862,000 in local money. An additional $625,000 in state funds will allow the system to be extended into crime-plagued neighborhoods.

At an afternoon news conference on the North Side, police Chief Nate Harper said the cameras will be a deterrent to crime.

“With the technology these cameras will have, it will greatly assist us with stopping homicides on the street, as well as stopping other crimes,” he said.

The system will include 32 cameras installed on bridges, 48 that can recognize license plate numbers, and several dozen that will be deployed through the city’s six police zones. It also includes a computer system to receive data from those cameras and about 120 others owned by private companies throughout the Downtown area.

The first six to 12 cameras will in installed in the Mexican War Streets area in the next few months, Mayor Lyuke Ravenstahl said. The first one probably will be at the corner of Brighton Road and Jacksonia Street.

Avrio leads one of nine groups of vendors that competed for the city’s business. Avrio has won a string of high-profile camera installation jobs lately, including the task of putting up surveillance systems in St. Paul, Minn., for the Republican National Convention, and Denver for the Democratic National Convention. It also got the jobs of posting camera networks in Buffalo, N.Y., and Glendale, Colo.

City Council passed a camera privacy policy last year. It gives the chief of police the role of choosing where to put cameras, giving priority to neighborhoods with “a distinct pattern of crime” where there is a “potential to deter” that activity, and “significant support” of the community.

Footage can only be preserved for 10 days unless it is needed to investigate a crime or document city liability. Cameras are not allowed to target or follow a person unless there is probable cause that they have committed or are committing a crime.


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