It’s not the kind of press you would expect for video surveillance, especially after all of the positive PR for helping bring down the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. Only onward and upward, right?
Apparently Philadelphia didn’t get the memo.
Last week, City Controller Alan Butkovitz announced the results of an audit of the police department’s surveillance camera program. The news wasn’t favorable: Only 32 percent of the cameras reviewed were functioning as they should, down from 45 percent found to working properly during a random sampling last year.
“That 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 at camera locations,” Butkovitz told the Philadelphia Daily News. He said the system is “worse than useless” because it gives residents a false sense of security.
Butkovitz said the problems included blurry images with pixelated edges and condensation in camera domes, making it difficult or impossible to read license plates and identify crime suspects.
“Suppose that had been the quality of photos in the Boston bombing,” Butkovitz told KYW Newsradio, letting listeners draw their own conclusions.
Mayor Michael Nutter was quick to respond to the assertions, calling Butkovitz’s report inaccurate. Nutter said that by his administration’s count, 85 percent of the 216 police cameras were working as of May 27.
Asked by the Daily News why there was such a wide discrepancy in the figures, Nutter said, “I can’t account for the controller’s inability to count. … We know what cameras work. [Butkovitz] does some kind of sampling. We actually pay attention to all of the cameras.”
Regardless of who’s right, Philly’s spat highlights the benefits for the security industry post-Boston. For cities that don’t have a video surveillance system, the law enforcement benefits of adding one have never been more obvious. For cities that are already onboard, now is the time to make sure the systems are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. That goes for the monitoring side as well.