City Surveillance Camera System Shortcomings

by Donald Shovlin

I recently read a couple of articles in The Citizens’ Voice that caught my attention. The February 25th issue of the newspaper ran an in-depth article claiming that shootings in Wilkes-Barre have risen to a three-year high. This piece included a color-coded map of the city, marking the location of each shooting over the last three years, with an ambiguous cluster situated on, or around, Coal Street. Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Gerald Dessoye is quoted as saying, “Arrests aren’t made for a majority of the cases because the victims refuse to cooperate with police” and went on to add that the “no snitching” creed of the streets helps to ensure that the shooters are rarely identified and apprehended.

Another article that I’ve recently read in the same publication was presented as more of a public interest piece, detailing plans to install dozens of the thus-far-ineffective Hawkeye cameras in and around the new Intermodal transportation hub in the city’s center, even though there are still no cameras installed on the entire stretch of Coal Street as confirmed by Hawkeye Security Solutions board member Greg Barrouk and my own observations. As indicated above, a large percentage of the recent shootings are occurring on this recently-expanded Heights roadway. Barrouk has publicly stated that some cameras, while not installed on Coal Street proper, are trained on portions of the five-lane stretch.

We live in a society where we are increasingly being watched by ‘Big Brother’

To my knowledge, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 260 Hawkeye security cameras already installed throughout Wilkes-Barre, but concentrated in a relatively small geographical area, so it stands to reason that if these devices were strategically placed one should be able to watch, practically in real time, the movement within the city of anyone who may merit such close observation.

I live in the middle of a very short block in the East End section of the city and on January 15th of this year my home was burglarized in broad daylight while I was at work. Upon discovering this invasion, the first thing I did, of course, was to call 911. Approximately 15 minutes later Patrol Officer Ference of the WBPD arrived and seemed genuinely bothered by the fact that I had somehow interrupted his afternoon. While giving him my statement I gestured to a city-owned camera that has a perfect vantage point of my house and suggested that perhaps something useful may have been recorded, to which he replied, with a bit of a chuckle, “Those cameras are useless!” Yes, those were his exact words. If this is the general attitude amongst our civil servants regarding what is supposed to be a safeguard, and the cameras are absent from the areas where they would be most useful, such as Coal Street and other crime “hotspots,” then how can the well over $3 million that we have spent thus far on the Hawkeye system be justified?

We live in a society where we are increasingly being watched by “Big Brother,” and for the most part in some very negative ways that are slowly but surely eroding our civil liberties. The Hawkeye Security network has the potential to be one of the few positive aspects of this rampant invasion of our privacy, but the ineptitude of those at the helm has evidently rendered it a laughing stock to the average police officer.

I am not making any accusations here, but, to me, the whole thing reeks of kickbacks, favors, and an overall waste of millions of our tax dollars. While they’re in town, perhaps it would be prudent for the Feds to take an in-depth look into this camera matter, and any possible financial ties amongst Hawkeye and the key players who insist on keeping and maintaining yet another pink elephant in Luzerne County.

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