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Nov. 29—The number of surveillance cameras in Jeannette is more than tripling, according to Police Chief Donald Johnston Jr.

The department is adding 63 cameras, including 16 license plate readers, with grant funding received last year from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Johnston estimated the 25 cameras already affixed to utility poles have increased the force’s rate of solving crimes by 30%.

“This is a huge tool for our police department and for the safety of all of our citizens because we’ll know who’s coming in and who’s going out,” said Mayor Curtis Antoniak.

Surveillance cameras monitored by police first were installed in late 2018 on Clay Avenue with funds seized during drug arrests and turned over to the city by the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office. Additional cameras were strategically placed in the years after.

The 16 license plate readers will be the first in the city. Johnston said they’ll cover the entrances and exits. The $106,000 PCCD grant also covered body cameras, computer upgrades and an additional monitor in the station to watch all the cameras. Each camera is $350 and the license plate readers are $850 each.

The surveillance cameras help police investigate crashes and solve crimes, Johnston said. They will be sprinkled throughout the city in areas such as Harrison, Chambers, Penn and Magee avenues and Division Street.

Some of them will be located in what Johnston described as high crime areas and others will be in sections of town where there is a lot of vehicle traffic. Police departments in other communities, including Irwin, Latrobe, Arnold and New Kensington, have similar systems.

License plate readers will be installed across the county through $1 million in American Rescue Plan funding received by the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office. The devices will help police track offenders and with active investigations, said spokesperson Melanie Jones. They will not monitor speed or traffic violations.

“They are an investigative tool and only accessed when a particular vehicle is sought for a crime,” she said.

Twenty readers are set for installation in North Huntingdon, Murrysville, Hempfield, Unity, Rostraver, East Huntingdon, Youngwood, Washington and Derry and Penn townships.

Such surveillance technology has been helpful to police, but opponents have expressed concerns about potential impacts it may have on individual privacy. Allegheny County has a multi-million dollar system consisting of thousands of cameras and license plate readers.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .



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