South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Surveillance cameras impacting crime along E. Carson in South Side

 

Allegheny County District Attorney Steven Zappala was in South Side to update and discuss surveillance cameras his office has placed on E. Carson Street and the impact they have had on crime.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala returned to South Side to update the community on the high-definition surveillance cameras his office has placed along E. Carson Street, throughout the county and beyond.

Currently, the DA's video surveillance system includes 450 total cameras in 75 locations. Of those, 156 cameras in 55 locations are capable of reading license plates. In South Side alone there are now 36 of the DA's high-definition cameras.

The cameras have also been placed in Washington and Butler counties because of drug dealers out of Pittsburgh going where the market is in adjoining counties.

Mr. Zappala said they are acutely aware of privacy issues and it is rare his office's cameras get into residential areas and prefers to focus on commercial districts such as E. Carson Street.

He noted Pittsburgh Police quickly apprehended and arrested a suspect in the killing and mutilation of a Carrick man. The DA's camera feeds were used to identify witnesses and were able to pick up the victim's car 76 times in the 17 days before the time of the murder.

"We picked up the victim's car at Pioneer and West Liberty Avenue the day after the murder," Mr. Zappala said.

"Every day a police agency is making cases using video technology," he added.

The DA said, nationally the best practice is to pair audio and video technology and that the City of Pittsburgh is studying its neighborhoods for pairing cameras with ShotSpotter technology.

Mr. Zappala said utilizing surveillance cameras, police are moving away from a pursuit philosophy to an intercept philosophy. The idea would be to have police ahead of the suspect, stop traffic so no one is in harm's way and figure out a way to stop the vehicle, such as with "stop sticks," a tire-deflating device.

The DA said since beginning in September 2017 he now has 36 cameras placed primarily between 10th Street and 19th Street along E. Carson. Statistically, from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018 crime is down 37 percent in South Side.

He called South Side a "regional asset" and said while residents may know about the surveillance camera, outsiders coming into the neighborhood generally do not.

"Pittsburgh Police has demonstrated, repeatedly, a rapid response and very professional response," he added. "The only thing that have been in the paper are some of the more egregious incidents that have been committed by criminals."

Concerned crime may just get "pushed off" of E. Carson, he said some things that have to be part of the conversation are slowing down traffic on the main street, the possibility of bollards to keep people from parking on sidewalks and the installation of "blue lights" or panic buttons in the neighborhood.

Mr. Zappala again offered access to the video feeds for bars and late-night businesses to be able to view the surrounding area before employees leave for the night. If they see someone waiting around the business, they could wait until it's clear or could call the police.

Although most of the wrongdoing in South Side has been relatively minor, he said, the cameras have helped prosecute some of the more egregious crimes.

He demonstrated how the cameras can be used to help solve crimes such as the recent stocking and sexual assault of a South Side woman.

Mr. Zappala stressed that the suspect is innocent until proven guilty and the video evidence was presented at a bond hearing and was now public information.

Utilizing the video feeds from the cameras, they were able to show a young woman and her friends coming up 12th Street and down E. Carson while the suspect would leap-frog and wait for them in each block along the way. The cameras were clear enough to pick up the suspect, hair color and skin tone, his vehicle and license plate.

"It's high-resolution 4-megapixels, it works really well," he said.

Another example he showed was a DUI on a motorcycle that assaults two people, one the passenger on the motorcycle. The video was an exhibit to a criminal complaint, making it public.

"The idea with the police in discussions I've had with the police agency, if you have this type of evidence and you can assist a district justice in making a determination of probable cause, that's the best evidence," Mr. Zappala said.

The video shows the motorcycle hitting a pedestrian on E. Carson Street and sliding down the street. The driver uprights the bike and tries to ride away while a police officer pursues on foot, catching the motorcycle, kicking it over and arresting the suspect.

"That's pretty good evidence," he said.

Councilman Bruce Kraus added that Parking Enhancement District Funds are going to be used in the neighborhood for public safety and public works projects. A litter machine has been ordered and the city is looking into adding additional surveillance cameras to the ones it has on E. Carson Street.

The councilman said they are working with an organization that provides training to bars for door security, to prevent problems before they begin.

Mr. Kraus said he would like to look into the blue lights Mr. Zappala mentioned. He said it may be possible to use Parking Enhancement District funds to purchase and install them.

 

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