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Tyrone Boro to look into downtown surveillance cameras

Tyrone Borough Manager Sharon Dannaway discussed with council at last evening’s borough work session for the month of October, the possibility of attaining surveillance cameras for the downtown area.
According to Dannaway, she and Tyrone Borough Chief of Police Joe Beachem have talked about the need for surveillance cameras, on a number of occasions, due to the vandalism and other disturbances that occur yearly downtown.
Council discussed the option and asked Beachem to acquire more information about the cameras, along with prices that would include the standard and stationary surveillance cameras, rotating cameras, and wireless cameras.
Councilperson Steve Hanzir thought that a wireless system would be ideal if the borough pursued the surveillance camera option, because wireless cameras could be moved more often from vandals and easy detection.
Beachem informed council that from what he has learned thus far, wireless surveillance camera systems have a “significant price increase.” He said that a stationary eight camera system typically costs between $3,000 to $4,000, compared to one wireless camera he looked at that held a price tag of $14,000.
Mayor Jim Kilmartin said that he thinks surveillance cameras would be “good to look into.” As for how the borough would pay for the cameras if council approved the option, he cited that grants were always a possibility.
Beachem could also include the monies needed in the police department’s 2009 fiscal year budget, but he will also be looking for grants.
“We have to weigh out whether it’s going to be worth it or not,” said Kilmartin. “We’re limited with police force, so we can’t have police in the downtown all the time – we need to have police throughout the community.”
Kilmartin also stated that “the downtown is a higher attracting area for violations, vandalism, and other incidents,” so he hopes that by looking into surveillance cameras it will deter the activity that is prevalent.
Beachem said that there has been a lot of vandalism that has occurred at the City Hotel Park through the years, along with many disturbances downtown, whether it be fights or similar incidents. He thinks that the cameras would be useful in other ways also.
“You could actually protect some of the businesses that have been vulnerable to robberies in the past, like the pharmacies and the Choice store,” stated Beachem. “Crime prevention is probably the number one reason that we’re looking at this, but ultimately it’ll be council’s decision on whether they want to go with it or not.”
He added, “It’s definitely worth looking into, as long as it’s not cost prohibitive – just strictly from a prevention side.”
Beachem told council that he researched State College’s downtown surveillance camera system and was told that there were some people who protested the installation of the cameras, particularly college students, saying that the public viewing cameras were an invasion of privacy.
He doesn’t think that would be an issue in Tyrone Borough.
“It would be focused strictly on public areas and wouldn’t be used to target any specific individual,” added Beachem. “There are restrictions, and if we would implement something like this, then we would probably try to implement a policy that’s even a little more restrictive than it has to be.”
He continued, “We’d want people to understand that we are in no way, shape, or form trying to pry into everybody’s private life. This would be strictly for public protection and crime prevention.”
Beachem plans to gather enough information by next Monday to present to council different surveillance camera options and prices at its October regular meeting. Council would then decide whether or not to pursue further the purchasing of the cameras.