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Mayor Disputes Controller’s Report on Philadelphia Police Cam Failures

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(Philadelphia controller Alan Butkovitz, at lectern, releasing follow-up study on police department's surveillance camera system.  Credit: Steve Tawa)

(Philadelphia controller Alan Butkovitz, at lectern, releasing follow-up study on police department’s surveillance camera system. Credit: Steve Tawa)

Steve Tawa Steve Tawa
Steve Tawa joined KYW Newsradio in 1990, and splits his time between...
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By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A follow-up audit by the city controller of the Philadelphia Police Department’s surveillance camera program finds the system in even worse shape now than it was last year.

But the mayor’s office takes exception to the report.

Controller Alan Butkovitz says it’s discouraging that, by his count, less than one-third of the cameras they reviewed were functioning properly.

(A Philadelphia Police Department surveillance camera.  File photo)

(A Philadelphia Police Department surveillance camera. File photo)

The city has 216 existing video surveillance cameras.

Last year, he said, a random sampling of 20 cameras found that only 45 percent were functioning properly.  In response, Butkovitz recalls the mayor’s office indicating it would fix the system (see previous story).

“They said by September that they’d have 90 percent working,” Butkovitz said today.   “It’s now almost a year later and they’ve got 32 percent working.”

He says the problems brought to light in a study by the accounting firm Eisner Amper include blurry images with jagged, pixelated edges, making it difficult to read license plates, and condensation and water in camera domes, making it impossible to identify people.

“Suppose that had been the quality of photos in the Boston bombing or the Graduate Hospital murder,” Butkovitz tells KYW Newsradio.   “It’s worse than useless because it gives you a false sense of reliability.”

He says that during a recent visit to Baltimore his office found 97 percent of its 622 cameras were functioning as designed at all times.

Late this afternoon, Mayor Nutter said the controller’s report is inaccurate.

“The controller is wrong.  We’ve tried to explain that to him,” the mayor told KYW Newsradio.

Nutter says 85 percent of the cameras are operating as they should be, “and through the course of the year it has varied from 85 percent to the low 90s.”

Mayor Nutter also says there are about 1,500 cameras across the city that feed into the city’s real-time crime center.

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