Wilkes-Barre Considering Changes to Camera System

WILKES-BARRE -- Several years ago, Wilkes-Barre installed hundreds of security cameras around the city, but now, their future is uncertain.

The city of Wilkes-Barre is now looking to make changes to its multi-million dollar camera system it set up just five years ago. The state grants that paid for much of the camera system dried up.

Tuesday night, the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority voted to not renew its $100,000 contract with the city because the camera system had not been monitored around the clock since early this year.

"Right now, we're in an evaluating process to determine where does that fit in with where the city is right now," said Wilkes-Barre city administrator Ted Wampole.

Wilkes-Barre's cameras have helped with crime fighting over the years. In September 2012, Wilkes-Barre police nabbed 32 people on drug charges in Operation Square Deal. Police say Public Square surveillance cameras made it possible.

But now, Wilkes-Barre City bears all the responsibility to pay for the system, and all the costs add up quickly. For instance, the city needs wi-fi internet so the video can be seen over at the police department. That’s paid for until 2019, but the contract that would maintain the cameras expires at the end of this year. The city is not certain it will renew that contract.

"A big part of that is the cost, let's not kid anybody," added Wampole.

Many business owners on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre credit the presence of the cameras for deterring crime. Now that the camera system’s future funding is uncertain, some people are concerned.

"People are scared when they see a camera, and they behave a little bit better," said Regina Poplawski, owner of Center City Café.

The camera system cost about $4 million to install, maintain, and monitor over the years. Most of that came from state money, like casino tax dollars. And with city leaders looking to raise taxes for next year, the city doesn't seem to have any extra money to fund it.