Schenectady County

City’s security cameras being watched

There are human eyes behind those cameras now.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

There are human eyes behind those cameras now.

The security cameras trained on parks, crime-ridden intersections and popular drug-dealing spots are now being controlled by paid monitors. Two workers started Tuesday and the city plans to hire two more soon.

For the next three months, police said, workers will zoom in on suspicious individuals and notify police dispatchers if they see any crimes occurring.

They’ll also zoom in on the location of 911 calls while dispatchers send police to the scene, hoping to record faces and license plates in case the suspects escape before police arrive.

Even when it’s pitch black outside, they’ll be able to watch you.

“The cameras have low-light capability,” police department spokesman Lt. Brian Kilcullen said. “Naturally we don’t want to say exactly when they will be monitoring the cameras, but it could be at night.”

Until now, the cameras have been used to help catch criminals after they committed their crimes. Police would replay the footage hours or days later, trying to identify suspects. Prosecutors have also used the cameras to prove in court that their suspect was at the scene of the crime.

But police officials hope that the monitors now will be able to call them in while the crime is taking place — allowing them to stop criminals before they run.

“Our goal, obviously, is to deter crime,” Kilcullen said. “And basically be another witness when something does happen.”

Police have had difficulty getting witnesses to talk in serious cases. That won’t be a problem if the staffers see the crime.

“Certainly they’d be willing to talk,” Kilcullen said.

The monitors are each working 15 to 20 hours a week. Their salaries will be covered through a $20,000 grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Although the city could have stretched that grant through the rest of the year, the agency required all of it to be spent by Sept. 30. The county applied for the grant and passed it on to the city.

Police are combing through their budget in search of unspent money that could be used to continue the program once the grant runs out, Kilcullen said. They’re also looking for additional grants.

They could fall back on volunteers — at least two people have offered to watch the cameras for free. However, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said he’s not sure that volunteers would do well in court if they had to testify to what they saw.

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