Sunbury Surveillance Cameras: A Waste of Money?

SUNBURY, Pa. -- A $200,000 surveillance system meant to stop crime in Sunbury has yet to solve a single one.

Back in 2009, the city got a federal grant for the cameras, but so far, they appear to be nothing more than an expensive waste of money.

Drivers entering Sunbury are greeted by a surveillance camera. In the city, you find cameras at intersections, in parks, and near the river.

Sunbury City Solicitor Joel Wiest wants to get to the bottom of how a $200,000 federal grant for 50 surveillance cameras left Sunbury with just 15-20 that don't appear to work.

"Something smells rotten. There's no doubt about it," said Wiest.

The cameras were installed in 2013. That November, the Craigslist murder case drew national attention. Police caught a break when a Walmart surveillance camera caught the suspects buying cleaning supplies.

But before capturing the couple, officers asked the man who installed the cameras for video. A month later, when police arrested the so-called "Craigslist killers," the camera installer finally gave that video to police. Then, he billed Sunbury for the download.

"The city paid the $300 out to access their own cameras," explained Wiest.

City officials say the camera system stopped working earlier this year, so when vandals damaged a riverside gazebo, the city camera mounted on it recorded nothing.

The camera over Sunbury's skate park also stopped working. Skateboarder Austin Dye of Sunbury says crime thrives without a working camera there.

"The ramps got graffitied. There's always been problems here: fights, drinking, stuff like that," said Dye.

Others wonder why a small playground at the edge of the city limits has three cameras. A fourth camera nearby overlooks the concession stand for softball fields, but the city did not install any of these cameras in the downtown area, meaning no extra set of eyes for police in the busiest part of Sunbury.

Wiest says the only cameras that appear to work are behind a pump station, pointed at the Susquehanna River.

"There are some cameras which are used by the Army Corps of Engineers and by the city government if you will, for the purpose of monitoring the levels of the river," said Wiest.

"Weren't these cameras supposed to be used for crime prevention?"

"That is my understanding," Wiest replied.

Wiest wants a federal investigation into the bidding for and the installation of the surveillance system. Sunbury City Council awarded the bid to a business run by a man named Aaron Nigro, a former cop and constable with several brushes with the law and a criminal record.

Former city officials concede they did not do a background check on Nigro.

Nigro did not return our calls.

People in this community want to know why $200,000 of taxpayer money bought cameras that are pretty much useless.

"This was supposed to be one of the big things to make the city more secure, and it doesn't do a thing," said Mike Dock of Sunbury.

And unless this financially strapped city can find another grant, its solicitor says most cameras won't record or help solve a single crime.

6 comments

  • jimbrony

    Cameras do not prevent crime. They might help solve a case (if they work and the picture quality is better your 1962 vacation video to Old Faithful), but they sure don’t prevent crime.

    • straubdavid9

      Got that ….. but neither do they help solve crime if they don’t work …. so it’s a lose-lose proposition, and worse if you don’t recover the wasted money for a defective system. Btw ….. a working system IS a deterrent, and once you nail a few nitwits and publish their deeds, the benefits will be realized.At least that is my opinion. YMMV.

  • straubdavid9

    Buyer’s remorse ….. no warranty/guarantee?? This sounded like a great idea, but the execution …… not so much. Surely there are consumer protection laws that come into play here? $200,000 dollars of tax payer money needs to be recovered, plus the cost of damages to property that was supposed to be protected by this system. Why does it sound like the city lawyers are clueless, when these are the kinds of things they should be on top of?

  • Lance Blinent

    It appears the city of Sunbury took a lot for “granted” when installing the cameras. $300.00 for a download?

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