You may not have known it, but if you've walked through the intersection of Harrison and Halstead Ave. at some point during the last two weeks you were probably recorded by two new police security cameras.
The cameras, placed around the intersection in May, feed video to the Harrison Police Department and are a "free trial" that Police Chief Anthony Marraccini hopes will eventually become a large network of such cameras placed around town. The cameras are the same ones used by the NYPD and are becoming more and more common in towns and villages across the country, said Marraccini.
"Video evidence is very beneficial in solving criminal activity, and also deterring crime," Marraccini said. "Having video throughout town, and plate readers throughout town, is going to help us."
Through the cameras police are able to not only view what is happening in the area from headquarters, the system allows the department to search for objects or items from the past. For example, Marraccini said if police are looking for a blue car passing an intersection they can search through the security system and immediately view all of the vehicles that match the description.
"The system is very advanced," Marraccini said. "The technology really is incredible."
There is no timetable for the free use of the current cameras, but Marraccini said he hopes to eventually expand the system, adding enough cameras to blanket all of the entrances and major thoroughfares in town. He estimates the cost to be about $1 million, which the Town Board would need to approve as a capitol expense.
Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont said it's something the board will likely consider in 2013.
"We'll see what we are going to get funded for in the capitol budget next year," Belmont said, adding that he was also impressed by the potential use of the cameras.
"I think it's a win-win for the residents," Belmont said, noting that several recent crimes across the country have been solved because of similar security systems. He recalled a pair of crimes that have garnered national attention in other parts of the country that were actually caught on videotape.
Marraccini said he has been pushing for a security system for the town for the last five years, dating back to his time as a captain in the department. He said the cameras can help generate leads quickly and would have been beneficial during recent incidents downtown, including a that recently took place near the Harrison Train Station and another near the Chase Bank downtown.
"We need to evolve with technology," he said. "I think it's a smart investment in keeping our community safe."
Belmont downplayed concerns that the cameras might be an invasion of privacy, saying the cameras would only be placed in public places and that the system will help the police department with its primary objective—keeping the community safe.
He added that if people aren't doing anything wrong, there's no reason to be concerned.
"It's going to benefit policing in tremendous ways," added Marraccini.