By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Surveillance cameras are now watching Brownsville Road

 


Four new license plate cameras at two high-traffic Carrick intersections were announced by local government officials at last Monday’s meeting of the Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch at 25 Carrick Avenue.

The cameras, which were installed at the intersections of Brownsville Road and Maytide Street and Brownsville Road and Nobles Lane, are part of a growing security network consisting of 1,400 cameras county-wide led by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

The license plate cameras have the ability to capture the make, model, color, and plate number of every vehicle that passes through a checkpoint. The data captured by each camera is stored in a centralized database that can be used by law enforcement to create a “breadcrumb trail” for investigating criminal activity.


“If a [suspect] comes into the neighborhood and robs a bank or does something, we can have their license plate in minutes,” District 4 Councilman Anthony Coghill said.

John Hudson of Security Consulting Solutions, Inc. presented the cameras to the community on behalf of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Hudson said more than 119 municipalities in Western Pennsylvania are utilizing the technology.

“We have police departments in Brentwood that can now see what’s going on in McKeesport’, Mr. Hudson said.

The technology is made available to all law enforcement through the DA’s office and has been crucial in capturing multiple bank robbery suspects across the region.

In response to privacy concerns, Mr. Hudson said any time a member of law enforcement searches for a license plate in the database, the query is recorded in order to prevent potential misuse.

“There’s always the big brother idea,” Mr. Hudson said. “As a citizen, you have a right to be concerned, but we’ve taken it to the next step and provide an audit trail.”

While the cameras have not been adopted city-wide, there are currently 55 cameras installed across several intersections along East Carson Street which have aided city police in investigating crime in the South Side.


Councilman Coghill, District Magistrate Richard King, and state Rep. Harry Readshaw worked directly with the DA’s office over several months to expand the cameras to Carrick. Seized drug money was used to fund the project, which cost approximately $15,000 per intersection.

“I’m not to say it’s going to prevent crime, but it’s certainly going to help us find whoever commits a crime,” Mr. Coghill said. “This zeroes in on the license plate like I’ve never seen before.”

Mr. Coghill added there are plans to expand the camera coverage in the future, but hopes that they aren’t needed.

Following the camera presentation, officer Christine Luffey informed the community of seven criminal incidents that took place in recent weeks.

On March 8 at 7:30 a.m., a 32-year-old female was arrested in the 2000 block of Brownsville Road and charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, and conspiracy. Police were monitoring the suspect as a result of a tip from the block watch.

A 25-year-old pharmacy technician at Rite Aid was charged with theft and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver on March 11 following an investigation by a loss prevention officer who allegedly observed the suspect pocketing drugs on camera.

Two undercover officers responded to a report of gunshots fired from a property near Uni-Mart in the 1900 block of Brownsville Road on March 18 at 12 p.m. When officers arrived, they observed two male suspects who were allegedly attempting to conceal a weapon.

The suspects were arrested and charged with carrying a firearm without a license, receiving stolen property, and tampering with evidence.

A 26-year-old male was arrested in the 1100 block of Brownsville Road on March 18 at 12 p.m. after a probation officer reported observing narcotics and a digital scale in the suspect’s apartment. When detectives arrived, they discovered three bundles of heroin and fentanyl.

Police are investigating reports of gunshots fired into a home in the 1600 block of Leolyn Street on March 25 at 8:12 a.m. According to officer Luffey, officers are reviewing a video recording of the incident captured by a witness.

Officer Luffey said there have been multiple reports of juveniles engaging in violent activity and vandalism near Phillips Park. She urged residents to maintain awareness and report any suspicious activity to police.

On March 19 at 7:17 p.m. a 14-year-old male victim suffered a concussion after he was assaulted by multiple juveniles in the park. The case is under investigation.

A female victim also reported the rear window of her car was shot by a pellet gun on March 24 at 2:30 p.m. Multiple witnesses stated they observed three juveniles near the scene. The owner refused to press charges.

“It’s the same crew,” officer Luffey said. “Let’s keep an extra eye out on Phillips Park. If you see something, say something.”

Multiple residents also said they have witnessed juveniles throwing rocks at parked cars near the park.

The next meeting of the Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch will be Monday May 6 at 6:30 p.m. at 25 Carrick Avenue.

 

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