Council considers cameras

WARREN – City council is examining the idea of having surveillance cameras placed around the city to deter violence and crime.

Council’s Community Development Committee chairwoman Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, approached the administration about adding cameras to the police department’s kit of crime-fighting tools.

Josh Miller, president and founder of Surveillance Group Inc., of Pittsburgh, was in town Monday to discuss the program.

“How cameras are used depends on the municipalities and their strategic needs,” Miller said. “There are fixed cameras, those that can move from side to side and zoom in and out, panorama cameras that can capture images from 180 degree to 360 degree angles, and there are cameras specially designed to read license plates.”

Miller emphasized that surveillance cameras will not eliminate crime but are another tool that police departments and prosecutors use in solving some crimes and pushing some criminal elements to other locations.

He said his company is working with more than two dozen municipalities throughout Pennsylvania and some railroads in Ohio.

Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the city has spoken to at least five different vendors about the possibility of using surveillance cameras.

“We have to determine how we would want to use them and the technology available,” Cantalamessa said.

Among the things to consider is whether the technology will increase the amount of work needed to be done by the police department, and, if the increase would be offset by other efficiencies.

Cantalamessa emphasized there is no timeline to make a decision.

“It could be within a year, in a couple years, or not at all,” Cantalamessa said. “It will be determined, in part, by available finances.”

As the city begins deliberating whether to pursue the cameras, the Ohio House of Representatives is considering a bill that would prohibit municipal corporations, counties, townships and the State Highway Patrol from using traffic law photo-monitoring devices. The ban would apply to cameras monitoring both speed and traffic lights.

Aware that there have been increasing discussions about eliminating traffic cameras in Ohio, Cantalamessa said if the city does move forward in the discussions about surveillance cameras it will focus on solving crimes, not providing traffic citations.