PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Surveillance cameras have proved invaluable to law enforcement across the country. Just recently images helped identify and quickly capture Ahmad Khan Rahami: the suspected New York and New Jersey terrorist bomber.
Yet here in Pittsburgh, when a 17-year-old boy was shot in the chest outside the Wood Street T-station, a city surveillance camera failed to capture the incident.
While police arrested 16-year-old Denzel Glover, prosecutors now need to proceed without video. Demanding answers, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich found that that particular camera was far from the city’s only critical blind spot and that dozens of cameras were malfunctioning.
“The camera kept going around 360 degree non-stop. In another case you had a camera pointed directly to the ground,” Hissrich said.
45 of the city’s 163 surveillance cameras, or 28 percent of them, were not fully operational. This, despite a $75,000 a year maintenance contract with with Hitachi Data Systems of Santa Clara, California. But Hissrich found that Hitachi was not to blame.
“There was a disconnect within the city government,” he said.
The City Information Technology Bureau, innovation and performance, had been charged with overseeing the operation of cameras. But when police would inform the bureau of ones that were not working, that information wasn’t relayed to Hitachi.
“There was no follow up on it and a lack of accountability,” Hissrich said.
The city’s Office of Municipal Investigations is now investigating why that information fell through the cracks, but the Public Safety Department has now taken over the maintenance of the cameras and Hissrich and Assistant Director Mike Huss say they’re more concerned with getting the cameras fixed.
“There’s eyes on it every day. We’re holding people accountable and we’re making sure that the cameras are up and working,” Huss said.
“Important thing is once we do get it up operational that we have checks on it weekly and make sure those cameras are operational at the time that we need them,” Hissrich said.