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State College Looks toward More Surveillance Cameras

on April 29, 2011 1:01 PM

The number of borough-owned and -operated outdoor surveillance cameras in State College could grow from three -- the current total -- to 10 or 15 in the coming months.

Developed by the borough administration, a capital-improvement proposal would add the cameras largely to "improve safety and reduce illegal activity," borough Assistant Manager Roger Dunlap wrote in an e-mail message.

He said the cameras would be meant to deter crime and, "where crimes do occur, to increase the likelihood that the perpetrator(s) are identified, arrested, held accountable, and the victims are made whole to pre-victimization condition.

"Public cameras may also help in a financial aspect by delaying the need to increase personnel resources," Dunlap went on. "The technology will also help personnel complete investigations quicker, and they should also lead to better prosecutions since the crime will be captured on video."

Borough leaders faced some camera objections -- including civil-liberties-related complaints -- back in 2003. That's when they moved to install borough-controlled surveillance cameras in the "Beaver Canyon" area of East Beaver Avenue, between South Pugh and South Garner streets.

Right now, two public cameras are in place there, along with one more at the East Calder Way-McAllister Alley intersection.

Those three cameras -- placed after a police call-data review identified where they would be most helpful -- have indeed proven useful, police have indicated.

If the plan to add more wins support with the Borough Council, Dunlap wrote, the borough will work with Penn State and other local entities to decide exactly where to place the new lenses. Penn State already operates a number of cameras along College Avenue, where the University Park campus meets downtown State College.

"Generally, the strategy is to locate public cameras in the high-activity areas of downtown," Dunlap wrote.

At a council work session earlier this month, council member Theresa Lafer said she would like to see some new cameras appear on residential streets such as Pugh, Garner and Sparks.

"These are areas that have seen vandalism and some fighting," Lafer said. " ... I do not want to see (the cameras) all simply on downtown intersections."

Some members of the Highlands Civic Association, a neighborhood group, have approached the borough about putting surveillance cameras on their streets, too, borough leaders noted.

The camera-expansion proposal also would replace eight surveillance cameras in the municipal building, 243 S. Allen St., and add more than two dozen new cameras in and around borough facilities.

"In borough-owned facilities, the new cameras will provide adequate protection and monitoring of the facilities during expanded use and access," Dunlap wrote. "Specifically, in the municipal building, tenants and business invitees of tenants may be able to gain building access during non-business hours, and the cameras will be used to protect the facility from damage and harm."

Those features could be particularly useful as Innoblue, a student-led entrepreneurial group, plans to set up leased entrepreneurial space in the borough building later this year.

All the proposed camera improvements would be projected to cost the borough nearly $500,000 in all. A tentative budget plan calls for a $230,000 expenditure in 2012 and a $245,000 expenditure in 2013, according to the borough.

A public hearing on proposed capital-improvement priorities, including the camera concept, is scheduled as part of Monday's Borough Council proceedings. They're slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the State College Municipal Building, 243 S. Allen St.

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