Controller: Problems persist with Philly police surveillance cameras

surveillance camera philadelphia
Up to 68 percent of city surveillance cameras may not be fully functional, according to the City Controller’s Office. Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro

Philadelphia’s embattled surveillance system is still ailing, with only 32 percent of cameras sampled fully functioning, according to a follow-up audit released Wednesday by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

The announcement came nearly one year after a controller’s office audit found that fewer than half of Philadelphia’s 216 cameras were working, and three months after the City Council held a hearing discussing best practices for surveillance camera funding and maintenance after touring Baltimore’s state-of-the-art system.

Following the 2011 audit, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison claimed 70 percent of city surveillance cameras were functioning after the city again outsourced maintenance and oversight last March.

The city further projected 90 percent of cameras would be working by September 2012.

Philadelphia did not meet its goals, according to the controller’s office.

“It is discouraging to report that only 32 percent of the sample cameras from around the city were functioning properly,” Butkovitz said Wednesday.

“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’s office in the follow-up audit reviewed the performance of 31 randomly sampled cameras installed around the city.

Staffers found video footage captured by the non-fully functioning cameras was impeded by condensation in camera domes and lenses, had pixelated edges when cameras attempted to capture movement, or showed no image at all but merely a pink screen.

Visibility was also compromised by objects like traffic lights and trees, according to Butkovitz.

Auditors with the controller’s office joined council members for their January trip to Baltimore, where they toured the city’s surveillance system in which 97 percent of cameras are functioning at all times.

Baltimore has 7.5 times more cameras per citizen than Philadelphia despite the fact that the city has nearly 900,000 fewer residents, Butkovitz pointed out.

He further noted Baltimore operates its cameras using retired police officers, as well as two full-time technology staffers, while Philadelphia uses active police officers and has no full-time or on-call surveillance camera employees at all.

Baltimore also has a scheduled preventative maintenance plan and conducts daily camera cleanings, making necessary repairs within 24 hours, while Philadelphia has no such maintenance program and takes up to five weeks to address repairs.

“With crime occurring every day in our city, Philadelphia needs to adopt necessary measures for its surveillance cameras to function properly,” Butkovitz said.

Butkovitz recommended that Philadelphia adopt measures similar to those employed by Baltimore, ensuring surveillance cameras are regularly maintained and dedicating at least one Office of Innovation and Technology employee to manage the surveillance program full time.

“Without taking action to improve our camera system, these cameras will continue to fail our police officers in solving crimes,” Butkovitz said.

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


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Local

African couple claiming misidentification in robbery case to…

At a bail hearing today for Vickson and Lorfu Korlewala, charged in the robbery of an 80-year-old woman, bail was reduced from $1 million total to $500,000.

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Music

Both feet on the ground with Aimee Mann…

What began with a cool double-bill of Ted Leo opening for Aimee Mann morphed into a full-fledged collaborative project that they're calling The Both. “There…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.