New surveillance cameras will be installed in the town of Rotterdam to help crack down on crime. The town won’t say where they will be installed.
“In other municipalities that use this equipment, their [crime] solve rate is much higher,” Town Supervisor Steve Tommasone said at last week’s meeting.
The Town Board voted to transfer $78,000 from the town’s general fund to purchase and install the security equipment, but the decision wasn’t reached without debate.
Councilmen Joe Villano and Rick Larmour voted to amend a resolution to make several fund transfers by eliminating the three they objected to: $35,000 for patrol vehicle gasoline, $23,000 for radio and mobile equipment and $20,000 from a computer maintenance contract. The transfers were to equal the $78,000 required by the Police Department for the cameras.
The councilmen said they wanted those transfers eliminated until a public hearing was held on installing the cameras, as some residents may feel the cameras violate their privacy.
“Viewing the comings and goings of each of us is actually a whittling away of your individual rights,” Villano said.
“If that’s the direction we’re going to go, shouldn’t there be some discussion about it?”
Earlier in the meeting, resident Jeff Nuzzaco expressed a similar concern.
“I realize these are ‘Big Brother’ times we live in, but people have concerns about the freedom act and NSA surveillance,” Nuzzaco said. “We don’t know the capabilities or intent of possible abuses of such a system, and I feel it would be appropriate to at least have a public hearing about the issue.”
“With these cameras, we keep saying we ‘have to have them,’ but this is something that we want,” he said. “What we have to have is money in the budget to take care of water main breaks and paving the roads. What I’m wondering is why all these budget lines have so much extra money in them.
“They’re so inflated that they can pick that money out for projects they want,” Larmour said. “If we’re shooing $23,000 that was meant for service radio mobile equipment, and money for that wasn’t a necessity . . . why was that money there in the first place?”
The amendment was voted down with Villano and Larmour voting in favor of the change, but Councilwoman Samantha Miller-Herrera, Councilman Evan Christou and Tommasone voting against it.
The transfers passed with the same 3-2 split.
“First of all, things change, as gasoline is 40 cents cheaper than it was last year — that’s quite a few dollars saved,” Christou said. “Secondly, what we have to do is keep our residents safe. Improving infrastructure is important but public safety is just as important. No one wants to come into a community with a high crime rate.”
“As someone who runs a household on a budget, I appreciate the Police Department using money that is already budgeted to make this purchase instead of bonding as we have done in the past,” Miller-Herrera said.
Tommasone said the purchase and installation of the cameras would happen soon.
“This purchase is taking place and is absolutely something we need — it is not an expense we can forego,” Tommasone said Tuesday. “We need to make certain expenditures in technology to assist our Police Department in helping solve crimes that occur in our communities.”
Tommasone said the cameras would not be used to watch people on a daily basis, like the controversial red light cameras, which are not being installed in town.
The exact location of the cameras shouldn’t be disclosed, he said, so people who might commit a crime won’t know where they are and try to evade being seen.
“When we do have people coming into the community to deal drugs and other illegal things, now we’ll have the resources at our disposal to catch these people,” Tommasone said. “That way, we can do our best to arrest and prosecute them.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: