Keeping an eye on Wilkes-Barre security cameras

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Questions are being raised by residents about the fate of security cameras in the city of Wilkes-Barre.

There are nearly 300 security cameras located throughout the city, but for the most part, they went dark years ago. There are signs all over the city that say: “This Area Under Video Surveillance.” It is supposed to make people feel safer and scare off the bad guys. The problem is the cameras may or may not be working.

You can spot them all over the city of Wilkes-Barre. Security cameras that were once known as the Hawkeye System. They were installed in 2008 at a cost of about $4 million.

They did work for several years. At times they were monitored and other times they were not monitored. The cameras have been in limbo in recent years largely because of technical and financial issues.

“Well, I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t look into it. I think cameras have a place, especially in urban areas,” Wilkes-Barre City Council Chairperson Bill Barrett said.

In addition to being the chairperson, Barrett is also the former police chief of the city. He thinks the council has to look at some way to bring back the cameras, but at a cost that won’t be excessive.

“Well, the system that we had is probably state of the art at the time. Maybe it was a little more than we actually needed. Now cameras are replaced by smart cameras. They can sense certain things, certain types of activity and they’ve gotten dramatically less expensive over the years too,” Barrett said.

Mayor George Brown was unavailable to talk with Eyewitness News Wednesday about the cameras, but he did have something to say about their future last summer.

“What I’m going to do as mayor is sit down with the police chief and the administration. We have a limited amount of money. What’s the best avenue for the citizens to make them safe?” Brown said.

William Kennedy often works in downtown Wilkes-Barre. What does he think about the cameras overhead?

“It’s a good idea. It’s not invading anyone’s privacy because it’s in public area. It might help make the city safer,” Kennedy said.

Aaron Buro is in favor of updating the cameras.

“I know some people are worried about maybe their privacy but crime is bad too, so we have to compromise,” Buro said.

Linda Joseph is president of the Rolling Mill Hill Residents Association.

“I absolutely believe that we need to have working cameras in every neighborhood not only to deter crime and to catch crime, but for all of the illegal dumping and littering that’s happening on every street in our city,” Joseph said.

Councilman Barrett says money is of course always an issue. But he says council will work with the mayor to decide the fate of cameras in the city.

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