The Sunbury Camera Debacle Rumbles On
The controversy surrounding Sunbury’s troubled security camera system continues to rumble on this week. There are still far more questions than answers.
At last week’s meeting of the City Council (January 13th 2014), Mayor Persing, closely questioned by audience member Mr. Drake Saxton, gave a master class in the art of obfuscation. Representing Not The Item, Mr. Saxton attempted repeatedly to disentangle fact from fiction, in a situation which is rapidly descending into the realms of farce.
Some of these questions had been posed previously, but anyone who is a regular attendee at city meetings, or who views Joe Bartello’s online videos, will be aware of the near impossibility of getting straight answers to even the simplest of questions. The City Administration appears to have a better warp drive than the Starship Enterprise.
Mr. Saxton pointed out that any RESPONSIBLE city council would be willing to provide the answers that he was seeking.
Unmonitored and Lacking Night Vision!
From what little information the mayor was prepared to divulge, it appears that the cameras are not monitored in real time, so are of no help to our police department in the prevention of crime!
As to why they were not being monitored, no satisfactory answer was forthcoming. It turns out that there is no central point where information can be retrieved from any or all of the cameras. Persing also admitted that not all the cameras have night vision capability – “in some places we are not concerned about dark hours”. In the unlikely event that the cameras have been installed to help fight crime, we would love to know which areas of the city only have a crime problem during the hours of daylight!
Who exactly is using the camera system? According to the Daily Item, no monitors have been installed in the police department – that’s right, the police have no direct access to a security system purportedly designed to make our city streets safe! However, it would appear that the Sunbury Public Works Department has equipment installed in the City Barn, and also the capability of monitoring the feeds via cell phone. If you are not appalled by this revelation, that a department incapable of clearing our streets after a snow storm is now monitoring the activities of our citizens, then you certainly should be.
It was also very unclear as to who made the decision regarding locations. According to the Daily Item, spare funds from the lavish Parks and Recreation budget had been used to cover installation costs. We doubt very much that Police Chief Mazzeo would have requested a Riverfront monitoring facility – the activities of flocks of ill-tempered geese or of roaming bands of river pirates are not normally a problem to his department. Nor would he have requested live feeds from the Mayor’s softball concession stand at the David L Persing Sports Complex, or of bikini-clad sunbathing mothers at the swimming pool.
He would have been much more likely to request locations in and around Market Street (no camera assistance was available during the recent burglary investigation), and also possibly the Skateboard Park, the scene of an armed robbery last year, during which the safety of some of our kids was jeopardized, and a report of which never made it into the pages of the Daily Item.
“You Can’t Believe Everything you read in the Daily Item” – Eister
When questioned about the original Daily Item story concerning the purchase of 200 cameras, Mr. Eister simply stated that you can’t believe everything you read in the Daily Item. On that, at least, we can agree! He also alluded to the fact that the present Verizon-based camera monitoring network does not work – a network specified by former councilman Todd Snyder, and for which he was given approval to spend part of the grant money on expensive communications equipment (City minutes 22nd October 2012).
It turns out that only 50 cameras were purchased, and based on the figure of $1200 per camera quoted in the original winning bid, as accepted by Sunbury City Council at the meeting of 22 October, 2012, this leaves a huge gap between what was quoted per camera and what appears to have been spent. Even allowing for the purchase of routers, data recorders and other ancillary equipment costing around $40,000, that still leaves $100,000 unaccounted for. Whatever happened to this money? Do they still have it or, if not, where did it all go?
Without waiting to be asked, Jim Eister was very quick to deny that any misappropriation of funds or theft was involved. Mr. Saxton had made no such suggestion.
Mr. Saxton ended by pointing out that the cameras appeared to have been of little or no use in helping the police solve the recent city murder. He suggested that a relocation of cameras may be in order.
Sunbury now has a totally dysfunctional camera system, and one incapable of providing even the most rudimentary assistance to our police department in their efforts to fight crime – and one which has resulted in the near total waste of $200,000 in tax dollars.
You ask what kind of an idiot could design a system such as this? The answer is quite simple – the Mayor of Sunbury!