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City police to add use of cameras

February 13, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Police will within the next week begin operating nine security cameras near the Bethel Gardens substation to deter drug dealing and other crimes, Police Chief Arthur Smith said Tuesday.

The cameras are being installed this week on Murph Avenue in the Bethel Gardens housing complex off Jonathan Street.

The cameras will continuously record. They will be fixed in certain positions but officers inside the substation can use joysticks to rotate them 360 degrees, Smith said. Images captured by the cameras would be admissible in court, he said.

The cameras are being installed at locations where the city knows crimes are likely to occur, Smith said.

Some potential criminals will notice the cameras and likely alter their behavior but others may be unaware of the cameras, he said.

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While they will be able to see the cameras, they can't tell which way they are pointing, he said.

"We will make a few busts out of this," Smith said.

He predicted the presence of cameras will cause a "calming behavior."

The Hagerstown City Council in October gave Smith the OK to start the program, which was 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 program, modeled after one run by the Frederick (Md.) Police Department, cost about $40,000, Smith said.

Smith told the council he would not proceed with the program if anyone in the affected community opposed the idea. He said no one spoke against the plan.

If the program is successful, Smith said he would like to set up additional cameras, perhaps near Public Square, in the future.

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