What was clear on April 23 was that two men apparently broke into the former Catholic War Veterans building on South Main Street and stole thousands of dollars in equipment and tools owned by the crew converting the building into a store and apartments.
A lot more would soon be clear, at least in part because the images captured on the city’s year-old surveillance camera system.
Days after the Gloversville Police Department arrested one suspect on burglary and theft charges, Detective Marc Porter offered a view of the video evidence.
Porter ran through the sequence of images recorded by a South Main Street camera from about 2 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. the morning of the burglary. Witnesses reported to police two suspects were observed riding away on bicycles between 2 and 2:30 a.m. and were seen sometime after 3 a.m. returning.
As Porter sped up and went to slow motion it was like watching footage of a controversial play in an NFL game and Porter was the ref conducting the review.
At 2:17 a.m., two people suddenly ride into the camera’s field and pedal away from the building. They are both wearing back packs. At 3:06 a.m. they return, this time on foot and are observed running across South Main Street.
“It doesn’t make or break a case,” said Porter, “but it backs up what witnesses said.”
Though an absolute identification would be difficult in the night scene, Porter said if it were necessary the images would be sent to the state police laboratories for enhancement.
Thanks in part to the recording, police said, the suspects were identified and the tools recovered. As of late last week, there was still a warrant outstanding for the second suspect.
“It’s not only a deterrent, it’s a valuable investigative tool,” said Capt. James Lorenzoni.
At a cost of slightly more than $50,000, the city acquired and installed a six-camera system last summer and had it hardwired into the police department.
There are cameras keeping vigil day and night at key locations in the downtown and in the bar and restaurant district on West Fulton at West Street.
Though the recordings are always valuable after the fact, Lorenzoni said they can help the department respond proactively when a suspicious gathering or incident is observed by an officer monitoring the large, flat screen. In that case, Lorenzoni said, “we don’t have to wait for a dispatcher.”
Officers continue to receive various levels of training on the system, Porter said. The system zooms in to read license plates, pans the streets and with split-screen capabilities an officer can view the city from all six cameras at once. There is an “iris” function to enhance viewing at night.
If there is a documented problem at a particular location, the system can be trained on that spot 24 hours.
“It’s just the beginning,” Porter said, making the point that officers are still learning to exploit the full capabilities of the system.
Porter also emphasizes that however helpful the system is to investigations, it provides only a piece. “Obviously, we’re not going to take care of a whole case right from behind the desk,” he said. If there are instances where it cannot produce an identifiable image of a suspect, it can often serve to provide corroboration to what witnesses report, Porter said.
Since its installation, the camera system has helped police make arrests in three cases. In one of those, a recording from the West Fulton Street camera helped sort out a large street fight that resulted in three arrests.
The cameras have also settled a number of complaints. Just recently, Porter said, a woman reported being nearly run over by a city Department of Public Works truck on Main Street.
On review, not only was the incident not so dire, but the truck was owned by a private waste hauler. Before the camera system was installed, officials said there could have been unjustified consequences from such a complaint, including disciplinary measures against employees.
Acting Police Chief Edgar Beaudin said the system has turned out to be a valuable aid. He said he was impressed by the clarity of the images it produces.
Mayor Tim Hughes said the system was a wise investment by the city and predicts its true value to the safety and security of residents will be more and more appreciated.
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Categories: Schenectady County