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Hazleton police announce new license plate camera system

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The city of Hazleton is launching a high-tech camera system that city officials say will help solve crimes and deter criminal activity.

It’s designed to photograph vehicles coming into and out of the city.

The police chief says this camera system will provide more eyes for the police they will be located at intersections throughout the city.

Intersections like this one at Route 93 and 924 will soon have cameras that will photograph vehicles and their license plates.

Mayor Jeff Cusat says the system is similar to what is used on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to collect tolls.

“This camera system is set up as a ring around the entire city. So if some this of crimes happens within the city we will be able to locate the behind leaving it entering at any given time and any vehicle location,” stated Mayor Jeff Cusat.

The red dots on this map of the city show the general locations of the cameras.

“This is for instance if there is a Homicide, hit and run. We really started pushing it when a child was hit by a vehicle several months ago. We need to move forward on this a little bit fader and more aggressive,” explained Cusat.

Police Chief Brian Schoonmaker says the photos will assist his officers to track potential suspect vehicles involved in all types of crimes.

“This can be used in any number of instances. Say we have a gunshot scenario we can see the vehicle if it happened where crimes are located. Same thing if it is a homicide in the vicinity. We have additional information,” stated Chief Brian Schoonmaker.

The police chief says the system is not designed to enforce traffic violations such as speeding. The so-called red-light cameras. It is not monitored in real-time.

“Essentially what’s going to show vehicles by the camera will capture the vehicle license plate the vehicle information. At that tins, it will be stored on a database for 30 days. After that 30 days, that system is purged would basically restart again,” explained Schoonmaker.

Mayor Cusat says the cameras will be up and running in several days. Federal COVID recovery funds will pay for the system which will cost about $100,000 a year.

Eyewitness News found general support for the license plate cameras. But some folks have questions about whether these cameras could be misused by the police.

“It could be a good thing it can also be an invasion of privacy and it could be bad for the person driving the vehicle,” said Craig Budde.

Craig and Vilmarie Budde have been active in city crime watch programs for years. Overall they support the soon-to-be-launched license plate camera system in Hazleton.

“It could be good because it might be essentially what they’re looking for on someone doing something. But again how do they determine that,” explained Budde.

Eric Antich is a manager for the company that will install and run the camera system.

“I’m happy to say what the system doesn’t do. There’s no facial recognition it’s not going to track gender, race anything like that. The goal of the cameras is to capture objective evidence to see exactly what passed at what time,” stated Antich, manager of Flock Safety.

The Budde’s say they will be watching very closely how the cameras are utilized moving forward.

“I feel they really need to be careful.. careful and see how this is going to go down. There are going to be questioned. Residents of the community are going to have questions,” said Vilmarie Budde.

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