Surveillance cameras proved their worth after two men were killed in Hazleton.
After watching video taken by cameras outside Penn Place night club, Hazleton police arrested one man for murder. They also identified another suspect in the killings that happened early Sunday.
“They’re still working on the investigation. They did a great job in grabbing one guy,” Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi said Monday afternoon. “They are still trying to identify the guys on the tape. They are trying to identify the others.”
Yannuzzi said other business owners can contribute to public safety by installing cameras, like Raymond Penn and Marcia Garcia did outside their night club, Penn Place, 44 N. Wyoming St.
The murders of Juda Hope, 23, and Vladimir Ruiz, 22, took place around the corner at North Wyoming and Green streets around 1:45 a.m.
“I agree that the business people should put them up for their own protection and for their neighbors,” Yannuzzi said.
He said the city would like to install cameras, too, if funding comes through.
“If we can get the money together, we’ll put them in trouble spots. We haven’t been successful in getting a grant,” Yannuzzi said.
Cameras are expensive. Wilkes-Barre spent $3.2 million for about 200 cameras, which are helping police observe suspicious activity. Residents and business owners ask police to place cameras near them.
In Scranton, however, the 12 cameras purchased for $220,000 haven’t been as effective. Police don’t have manpower to watch the live feed, and wind disrupted the wireless signals at least a dozen times in the first two years of operation.
Hazleton Councilwoman Karin Cabell said her research indicates that cameras are better at deterring burglaries and thefts than violent crime.
“I don’t want anyone to think that would be a panacea,” Cabell said.
Donna Palermo, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, said cameras help, as they have in Sunday’s case. But there is a simpler way to assist police, who can’t be everywhere.
“Anybody who sees anything that they’re concerned about should take it upon themselves to call, help police do their jobs,” Palermo said.
Police accept calls in confidence at 570-459-4910 and on their drug-tip hotline, 570-450-2080.
“If they see something going on or an unwanted individual doesn’t look right, call the police. They wouldn’t mind coming out and seeing what’s going on,” said Vilmarie Budde, who organized a Guardian Angels chapter that walked through Hazleton neighborhoods.
“We don’t have a big police force. We as residents need to get more involved so Hazleton can become at least safe for kids to walk,” she said.
The Guardian Angels chapter didn’t have enough volunteers to keep going after this summer, but Budde, who is running for city council, said criminals will leave an area where they’re being watched.
“When they know that people are looking and taking care of the area, they’re just going to go,” Budde said.
While walking along Wyoming Street with other Guardian Angels, she saw people lurking between buildings and probably selling drugs. Shoppers and residents started to feel uncomfortable, she said.
Thomas Gabos noticed similar activity and said people hesitate to visit the museum of the Greater Hazleton Historical Society that he runs at 55 N. Wyoming St.
“A lot of people when they call to come in the museum say ‘Oh, I’d love to take a tour. Could you have somebody escort me from my car into the building? There is a big fear of that part of the street,” Gabos said.
He suggested reopening the police substation, 90 N. Wyoming St., that seldom has been staffed since Hazleton Police signs were put in the window seven years ago.
Tveta Negrea, who donated the storefront to police rent-free, said she is selling the building, including her bakery at 88 N. Wyoming St., and eventually will have to ask the police to move.
“I think it did work having the substation. We don’t have any problems on this block,” Negrea said, whose building is three blocks from the murder scene.
“We do have a police presence. They’re just great. I do appreciate their work,” Negrea said. “I wish people would give them more support. People can make the difference.”