DA adds surveillance cameras
13 additional cameras on Carson St.
Last updated 9/20/2017 at 6:06pm
The number of government cameras keeping an eye on E. Carson Street in South Side increased with the addition of 13 high-definition surveillance cameras installed by the Allegheny County District Attorney's office.
DA Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. announced the installation of the cameras and demonstrated their capabilities at a news conference on South Side last week. The surveillance cameras are considered part of a public safety and criminal justice initiative through his office.
Currently, the DA has 220 cameras in its system, 80 of which are license plate readers, in 100 locations. South Side with 13 cameras is considered a single location.
The cameras are being paid for through a combination of public and private funds. They aren't monitored in real-time and are "reactionary," allowing investigators an opportunity to go back and view recordings. The surveillance recordings are retained for 30 days.
Calling South Side a "regional asset," Mr. Zappala noted the neighborhood has a transient component with people from outside the community coming in to take advantage of the entertainment and nightlife opportunities.
"The good news is that crime is limited," he said.
The initial 13 cameras, located in-between 13th and 18th streets, is the first phase in what could be a four or five-phase public safety initiative. Future phases could include cameras from 10th to 13th streets, 18th street to the Birmingham Bridge and license plate readers on the 10th Street and Birmingham bridges.
In installing the cameras, they are creating a wireless infrastructure that can support a "stress alert system" he explained. As an example, a doorman at a bar could have something like a "panic button" that would focus the cameras on the area and send an alert to police.
Not all the cameras are focused on E. Carson Street, several provide views of side streets in the neighborhood.
"When you get off of Carson Street and you get into residential communities, considerations are different," Mr. Zappala said.
The DA noted the city is restricted by ordinance what can be done with its cameras.
"I don't have those restrictions," he said. "There's no authority in the city in the city to tell be what I can and cannot do with a public safety initiative."
A business may request to be able to see a real-time view of the cameras. The advantage, Mr. Zappala said, would for the business' employees to be able to check the street conditions for any safety concerns before leaving.
"That has a lot of possibilities," he added.
The DA said there is a perception that isn't necessarily true that South Side isn't safe. However, he wanted to move quickly on this project because there is a spike in incidents when college students return and football season resumes.
He pointed out the biggest problem in South Side is public drunkenness, which may be alleviated somewhat with the cameras. He expected the cameras will act as a deterrent for the 21 to 25-year-old crowd.
"If they get arrested, it changes their lives. If that doesn't have to happen, if they haven't caused trouble, they haven't caused damage, this can maybe handle it. Maybe they're more afraid of their mom and dad seeing them stagger around Carson Street than a night in the County Jail," Mr. Zappala added.
The next highest crimes are simple assault, where bodily injury is limited, and liquor law violations.
The DA noted most of the tavern owners in South Side are "very good people" and have acted responsibility.
Mr. Zappala also explained an expansion of City Court with the Warrant Office and the addition of more than 50 other crimes, mostly felonies, that cannot proceed to criminal complaint without permission. In City Court, someone will be available from the DA's Office 24/7 seven days a week to review the video feeds.
"If I can see the evidence, I don't need a lot of explanation from anybody else," he said.
Mr. Zappala displayed a map showing where the majority of crime was committed on E. Carson Street and said he believes they can eradicate much of the nuisance crimes in a short period of time.