Philadelphia Controller slams city’s failing surveillance cameras

Philadelphia skyline

City of Philadelphia

A controversy over under-performing surveillance cameras has caused tension in the City of Brotherly Love, following a damning report from the City Controller.

Alan Butkovitz released details of an audit which found only 32 per cent of sampled Philadelphia police surveillance cameras were functioning properly.

The report was a follow-up to an initial surveillance camera audit run in June 2012, which found that only 45 per cent of cameras were working properly and led the city to promise that 90 per cent of cameras would be working by the September of that year.

Some 31 installed cameras were reviewed for quality, performance and functionality in the follow-up. After observing video footage captured, only a third of those were found to be working properly.

The Controller found issues including objects such as traffic lights and trees blocking visibility, images with pixelated edges causing difficulty in capturing moving items, or condensation and water in domes or on the lens making identification impossible. In addition, there were also examples of no image at all being produced by some cameras.

Butkovitz said: “It is discouraging to report that only 32 per cent of the sample cameras from around the city were functioning properly.

“This means that at any given time when crime is occurring around our City, only a third of the cameras are able to capture criminal activity.”

The controller also visited and compared Philadelphia’s camera network with that in Baltimore, which has 97 per cent of cameras functioning and a scheduled maintenance and repair plan.

He warned that Philadelphia needs to implement such a preventative plan to ensure repairs are carried out quicker and get cameras regularly cleaned and maintained to uphold their use as an effective crime-fighting tool.

“With crime occurring every day in our city, Philadelphia needs to adopt necessary measures for its surveillance cameras to function properly,” said Butkovitz. “Without taking action to improve our camera system, these cameras will continue to fail our police offices in solving crimes.

“More importantly, they will continue to fail at providing safety for Philadelphians.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter has hit back at the Controller, claiming 85 per cent of cameras are operating as they should be.  He said the report has “many inaccuracies” and the city already has a maintenance programme for the cameras.


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