MONROEVILLE (KDKA) — When you hear about a serious crime in Allegheny County, chances are good it’s happened in or east of the city of Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala says the city, its eastern suburbs (Monroeville, Penn Hills, etc.) and the Mon Valley account for more than 75 percent of all of the serious criminal cases in the county.
Now, one of those communities, with the DA’s help, has taken steps to keep criminals out. It’s created a virtual perimeter around itself.
“You can’t come to Monroeville and expect to commit a major crime and not get caught,” says Zappala.
The DA’s confidence is fueled by the electronic eyes now watching Monroeville constantly.
Besides the 70 privately-controlled cameras inside and outside Monroeville Mall, there are now 25 cameras trained on five Monroeville intersections.
Monroeville Chamber of Commerce President Sean Logan says it’s simple.
“If you’re going to come into Monroeville and create a problem, then you’re going to be on camera and we’re going to catch you,” he said.
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At the especially busy intersection of state routes 22 and 48, an array of cameras captures traffic moving in all directions. John Hudson, the security consultant hired by Allegheny County to design the camera system, says a vehicle cannot move through the intersection without being seen on camera.
Hudson says the cameras – coupled with technology that reads license plates – can also make many dangerous, high-speed police chases unnecessary.
“Someone comes soaring through the intersection, we’ve got them on video, we can go back and look at the video and begin the investigation,” says Hudson.
And Monroeville does not want its cameras to be a secret.
“Hopefully, the criminals are going to know they’re being watched and they’re not going to come here anymore,” says Monroeville Rotary President Debbie DiLorenzo.
“I know the crime has increased in Monroeville over the last couple years,” says DiLorenzo, who is also a realtor in Monroeville. “I think this is a great way to stop it.”
DA Zappala is not done. He recently met with representatives from several other eastern Allegheny County municipalities to advocate for a network of cameras countywide.
But getting set up in Monroeville, in particular, was a priority because of its ease of access to major highways – something that’s mostly considered a plus.
But, “it also brings a transient element here,” says Zappala. “They feel safe. They’re not safe anymore.”