Stowe police to watch street on video cameras
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Stowe is set to install video surveillance cameras on Broadway Street in its West Park business district as part of a free pilot project to deter crime.
A set of five cameras is to be erected on traffic signal posts this month with live, Internet feeds to the police department computer in the Broadway substation, Commissioner Frank Zieger said this week.
Fourteen shovels for 14 VIPs are ready for Saturday's ground breaking of the Stowe municipal building on Broadway near Charles Street.
Commissioner Frank Zieger, chairman of the building committee, will be master of ceremonies at the 1 p.m. event. Work is expected to start in November and the $2.2 million, two-story building should be finished in August.
Police and township offices will be on the first floor, which will include 10 computer stations, an evidence room, three jail cells, separate entries for police and prisoners and a small gym with shower facilities. The second floor will feature several meeting rooms and offices for district state legislators.
Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, leads the list of dignitaries who have been invited. Also on tap are local state legislators and county Chief Executive Dan Onorato.
The current municipal building at 1301 Island Ave., which is outdated and is not handicapped accessible, will be put up for sale, Mr. Zieger said.
Commissioners unanimously approved a bond issue last summer to pay for the project, and the construction bids are to be opened Oct. 17.
"It'll be a monumental day in Stowe Township," Mr. Zieger said.
The arrangement with Nomad Networks, a computer security firm in Pine, stemmed from Mr. Zieger's inquiries into upgrading video coverage in the new municipal building that breaks ground Saturday.
Once the new building and police offices are up and running next summer, the Broadway surveillance cameras will be hooked into those computers and, perhaps, the mobile ones in township patrol cars. The substation then will be eliminated.
"These cameras will be extra sets of eyes in our business district," Mr. Zieger said, adding that "they're not to spy on our residents for parking and stuff like that."
The project also isn't a response to any uptick in crime on Broadway, he said, but rather a local firm's effort to showcase a new video surveillance product in a new municipal building.
Mr. Zieger was more than happy to test-market Nomad's Cyber-VU system, which has been used at shopping plazas, the Pittsburgh Zoo and various commercial settings. Unfortunately, Mr. Zieger didn't have much money to pay for it.
"Basically what happened was that we knew Stowe's budget wasn't where it needed to be for a full system," Nomad CEO John Humenik said. What Mr. Zieger wanted, he said, was a beta system at little or no charge.
Mr. Zieger's sales pitch turned out to be contagious.
In providing Stowe with $10,000 worth of technology, Mr. Humenik hopes Mr. Zieger can be just as good a salesman when other towns look around for a similar upgrade.
"We haven't penetrated this market, the police-township business," Mr. Humenik said. "We needed that first customer."
"It's a win-win for him and it's more of a win-win for me," Mr. Zieger said. "He's willing to put this into our town."
According to its Web site, Nomad Networks has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to use visioning technology developed at the Robotics Institute. The software is designed to intelligently distinguish between normal activity and abnormal behavior.
Cyber-VU has been used at the Pittsburgh Zoo to capture live video of the recent birth of tiger cubs, Mr. Humenik said.
There are no guarantees but Nomad hopes Stowe will like the five-camera setup so much that it will buy a full system to cover more of the township.
In the meantime, Mr. Humenik said, all that the township has to do is arrange for the installation. "Free is a nice word," Mr. Zieger said.
Budget-wise, it was a good week for Stowe and Mr. Zieger, who also got a steep discount at Home Depot on 14 shovels he needed for Saturday's ribbon cutting of the new municipal building.
Mr. Zieger said he got the manager at the Camp Horne Road store in Ohio Township to sell him the shovels at $4.83 each. He already had the other essential ground breaking item, a can of gold spray paint.
First Published October 5, 2006 12:00 am