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Police propose use of cameras

October 16, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Police Department plans to go forward with a proposal to install nine security cameras near the Bethel Gardens substation to deter drug dealing and other crimes, Police Chief Arthur Smith said Tuesday.

The City Council is scheduled to vote at its Oct. 22 meeting on allowing the program to be funded with money from the Hagerstown Housing Authority, Bethel Gardens Corp. and a grant to the police department. No city budget money will go to the program.

The council looked at the project quickly Tuesday and no objections were raised.

"We are all in agreement," Councilman Lewis Metzner told Smith.

The substation is on Murph Avenue in the Bethel Gardens housing complex off Jonathan Street.

Smith previously said he would not decide whether to proceed with the plan to install cameras near the substation until he had secured the money needed and determined whether the community supports the idea. Smith has talked to residents in the Bethel Gardens area and has not found anyone opposed to the program, he said.

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While he initially estimated the cost of the project at $60,000, he has since found a company - KIPP Security Systems of Baltimore - that will provide the needed equipment and labor for about $40,000, Smith said.

The company also installed and does maintenance on a Frederick, Md., police camera program on which the Hagerstown plan is modeled, he said.

The cameras would continuously record. They would be fixed in certain positions but officers sitting inside the substation would be able to rotate the cameras 360 degrees using joysticks, Smith said.

Information caught on such cameras would be admissible in court, he said.

Smith has said the cameras would have helped police track down the person who wounded city police Sgt. George Knight, who was shot Sept. 17.

The cameras would not have filmed the shooting because that happened in an alley, Smith said. But it might have caught people going to and from the alley, and officers might have been able to identify and then interview them.

"It would have given us a good investigative tool," Smith has said. "It would give us both suspects and witnesses."

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