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Council Members Want To Boost City Surveillance System

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(A Philadelphia Police Department surveillance camera.  File photo)

(A Philadelphia Police Department surveillance camera. File photo)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Is the Nutter Administration doing enough to expand its use of surveillance cameras to deter crime? That’s what City Council members will be looking at during a hearing later today. Administration officials are not taking part.

Today’s hearing was called by Council President Darrell Clarke, who along with several other council members visited Baltimore last month to see how that city has ramped up its crime camera program. Clarke says one reason Baltimore has more extensive surveillance is that the city has tapped into hundreds of private cameras at colleges, hospitals and businesses.

“Baltimore showed us how you can more comprehensively have a system that works utilizing the resources that you currently have, and taking opportunities that utilize a public/private partnership.”

Philadelphia, Clarke says, should do the same. “There are cameras throughout the city of Philadelphia, in stores, in businesses, in institutions. We simply have to figure out a way to have that partnership that allows us to utilize the feed from their cameras.”

Philadelphia has 200 surveillance cameras, while Baltimore has more than 600. And Clarke says Baltimore has retired police officers monitoring the live feeds, so criminals can often be literally caught in the act.

“When they get a 911 call, that camera automatically comes on line to a person who is actually monitoring that particular camera. That’s a very important step,” says Clarke.

Councilman Bill Greenlee, who also toured Baltimore, agrees. “It was a very impressive set-up that they had. And the statistics bear it out. They really have cut down on crime in Baltimore, which was known as a high-crime city.”

However, no one from the Nutter Administration will testify at today’s hearing. A spokesman for the mayor says top aides who might have testified are either out of town or will be with Vice President Biden, who will be in town for a meeting of his gun task force. The spokesman says the administration will “be happy” to testify at a continued hearing at a later date.

Greenlee hopes the Nutter Administration can do more. “It seems like they really have stuttered around on this issue. They just have not gotten it together as well as should be expected.”

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