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January 9, 2014

Trustees considering use of cameras in village

Cooperstown Crier

---- — The village Board of Trustees is considering whether to install surveillance cameras on Main Street and in other locations, and may vote on the issue at its Jan. 27 meeting. 

At the village’s Dec. 19 meeting the trustees voted unanimously to add electric conduits into the Main Street sidewalks project, but stopped short of authorizing the use of cameras in the village.

The conduits, which will add about $6,000 to the project, are PVC piping to carry electric wiring from an electrical source to street level and can be used for other purposes besides cameras, such as emergency call boxes. The trustees agreed that whether the conduits are used now for cameras or not, it was prudent to add them to the project rather than have a future board want them and need to tear up the new sidewalks to add them.

However, after hearing a proposal from representatives from Adirondack Technologies on cameras types, the trustees decided to wait at least a month before voting on the use of cameras in the village. 

“It is not something I think we should decide now,” Mayor Jeff Katz said at the meeting. “I think it is something that most of the board is considering for the first time, and we all need time to think about it.

“To me, there are a lot of different levels of this,” he continued. “No one wants to live in police state, but we do have certain remote areas, such as the Gateway parking lot off season, where we had a lot of vandalism before we increased the police presence.”

In a follow-up interview with the Cooperstown Crier this week, Katz said he did intend to bring the matter up again, but he wasn’t sure how the board members would vote.

“It does become a question as to do you want a camera watching the village 24-7 and 356 days a year,” he said.

“It all feeds into, in different ways, the idea of the village and its relationship to the police department and to the police department’s budget,” he added.

According to the Adirondack Technologies’ representatives, there are several different modern camera units being used for municipal purposes. Bigger cities are using streaming equipment that can be monitored on a live feed by police departments. Another option is to use a fish-eye lens that can take a panorama view and record the image to a server where it is saved in case of emergencies.

Cooperstown Police Chief Mike Covert told the board that his department does not have the resources to monitor a live feed, but he did like the idea of a recorder.

“A fish-eye lens that you can go back and check a week later to see what happened makes sense to me as a police officer,” he said.

Trustee Lou Allstadt asked Covert if the cameras can see through windows. “If they can, I would have a big problem with that,” he said.  

Covert said he has seen similar security programs that digitize windows so that private homes are not spied on. However he was not sure how the technology worked and if it could be un-digitized.

Katz said that previous boards have decided against the use of cameras.

“Last year we voted on whether to proceed on the cameras, just conceptually, and it was voted down,” he said.

Katz also said he was unsure if the use of cameras would have helped during the Dec. 23 incident at Seventh Inning Stretch, or if the incident will change any opinions about the use of cameras.

Former Seventh Inning Stretch manager Barry Renert is accused of threatening store owner Vincent Carfagno two weeks ago. Covert said that the incident was captured on the store’s security cameras.

“From the time it happened to when he was caught was about 12 hours,” Katz said. “I am not sure that having the cameras would have helped. From my perspective, the police did an excellent job.”