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Eye-in-the-sky helps to deter crime along Brownsville Road in Mt. Oliver


Mount Oliver police now have a new tool to help deter crime in the borough, an “eye in the sky” that's capable of seeing and recording in all directions at the five-way insection at the clocktower. The state-of-the-art system incorporates four stationary cameras and one pan/tilt/zoom camera to monitor the area. The cameras are able to be viewed and controled from police headquarters in the Borough Building and in each of Mount Oliver's police vehicles.

Several years ago Mount Oliver Mayor Jeff Repasky had a simple idea to fight crime in the borough: put cameras up on the clock tower at the five-way intersection of Brownsville Road, Hays Avenue and Bausman Street.

In order to make his idea a reality, Mayor Repasky needed a lot of help, $40,000 worth of help. To find the money to put the cameras in the central location, he applied for and received grants with the help of State Sen. Jay Costa Jr. and State Rep. Harry Readshaw.

The borough now has a state-of-the-art wireless surveillance system that is capable of being monitored and controlled from not only police headquarters in the borough building, but also the police cruisers on the streets of Mount Oliver. The system, with four high resolution stationary cameras and a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera that is able to rotate 360 degrees, is able to monitor and record the entire intersection in color.

The PTZ camera is able to zoom in as far as the Pittsburgh Christian Fellowship one way on Brownsville Road and to the Borough Building in the other direction. The resolution on the PTZ camera is clear enough to read street signs in the middle of the block.

The system allows the police to record onto discs for use in investigations and as evidence in court.

"It's another tool to deter crime in the area," Chief Fran Mossesso of the Mount Oliver Police Department said. Since installing the cameras last month there has been a decrease in prostitution and drug activity in the viewing area of the cameras.

"It deters most of the major crimes we had [in that area]," he continued.

Officer Ed Besselman, one of several borough officers trained on the system, explained that the system automatically switches to a night mode when it gets dark. "It's more of a black and white [picture], but still clear," he said.

Before installing the cameras the borough also developed a Privacy Policy and adheres to strict guidelines on the use of the cameras, particularly the PTZ camera. Only law enforcement officials are able to access the system and there are only two people authorized to make a recording from the system. Any recordings made from the surveillance system can only be released to law enforcement officials.

Chief Mossesso explained that the cameras only record video not audio. He said that recording the intersection isn't a privacy issue because there's no expectation of privacy in a public area. However, they aren't permitted to "target" an individual or look into buildings randomly.

Mount Oliver Police Officer Ed Besselman is able to monitor the five-way intersection surrounding the clocktower for any activity from an office at police headquarters.

"There has to be a reason why you zoom into cars and if you're looking at a person there has to be a reason, an investigation going on," the chief of police continued.

The wireless surveillance system is expandable with capabilities to accommodate up to 64 cameras. Mayor Repasky is looking into additional funding to have cameras placed in other parts of the borough including Transverse Park. Stationary cameras cost approximately $2,500 to $3,000 and PTZ cameras almost double that amount.

Chief Mossesso said the police department will work with businesses in the borough that would like to place cameras on the exterior of their buildings along Brownsville Road. Those interested in purchasing a camera to be integrated into the system should contact the Mount Oliver Police Department for more information.


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