Smile, Hazleton residents, you may be on camera.
The first four of what will become dozens of video cameras around downtown Hazleton are rolling. City officials and the designer of the system showed how the system works Friday.
Keith Maxwell of Northeast Surveillance and Alarm, Slatington, Lehigh County, said the 65-inch video screen he installed in the Hazleton Police Department will be connected to outdoor cameras around downtown Hazleton. City police cruisers will also have access to the video.
Maxwell said the digital video processing unit he installed in City Hall can record “up to 30 days, depending upon the amount of activity” in downtown Hazleton.
Hazleton Mayor Joe Yannuzzi said the screen can be divided to show 32 images at the same time.
“And we have about that number of people interested in cameras,” Yannuzzi said. “If we surpass that number, we’ll have to go to another screen.”
The first four cameras have been installed on all sides of the former Altamont Hotel, where the MinSec pre-release facility is located.
“They were one of the first downtown businesses to call,” Yannuzzi said. “They purchased four cameras.”
Using those cameras, Maxwell demonstrated the various views the cameras – mounted about 20 feet above the sidewalk – can provide.
With the assistance of Patrolman Anthony White, Maxwell also demonstrated how the cameras look on a laptop computer mounted to the dashboard in a city police cruiser.
Police Chief Robert Ferdinand said the capability of receiving the video in cruisers will give officers a preview of a potentially dangerous call they might be dispatched to.
“It will help officers going into a dangerous situation, a ‘hot spot,’ get a look at what they’re getting into,” Ferdinand said.
Yannuzzi said many downtown merchants have expressed interest in getting one of the cameras.
“Keith has been busy,” Yannuzzi said. “This is a perfect example of a public-private partnership. The merchants buy the cameras, and the city has the system.”
Yannuzzi also said the city has identified some funds to help merchants purchase cameras, which cost $975 each.
Other municipalities, like Wilkes-Barre, have a similar system. But Hazleton is the only municipality that has the capability to see the video in police cars.