Baltimore Co., Md., Looks into Giving Police Live Access to Camera Feeds

County interested in real-time access and possibility of mobile camera for temporary deployments

But the city's surveillance system has drawn criticism. Some neighborhood activists have asked that some cameras be removed, either because they don't want to be labeled as having a crime problem or because they feel the money should be spent on officers patrolling the neighborhoods. And State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has questioned the effectiveness of the cameras.

"It was a great 60-second sound-bite for the politicians when it was announced with great fanfare," said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for Jessamy. "But we've seen no correlation in violent crime going down. Cameras haven't been the magic bullet."

Many of the images from the surveillance cameras are poor quality, making them virtually useless as identification in court, she said.

Kamenetz said that one of the benefits of the newer cameras is that they are far clearer.

Tax incentives

Kamenetz said he did not plan to immediately introduce legislation that would require the Internet-based security cameras at shopping centers. He said offering tax incentives to those willing to invest in the technology was a "logical next step."

Joan G. Hatfield, president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, said while some of the larger shopping centers can afford the most advanced cameras, requiring them could put smaller companies out of business. Hatfield said that adding a police officer or security guard can be more effective than a camera.

It will be important to determine where the cameras are "most needed and what will be best for the customer and the owner," said Hatfield, who is also president of the county's Small Business Resource Center.

The cameras at Hunt Valley Towne Centre look like light fixtures, barely visible above shops and restaurants.

The center began installing the digital surveillance cameras about two years ago, and The Avenue at White Marsh began using them several months ago, said Henry Tyrangiel, head of Computerized Management Systems, the firm that installed both systems.

The cameras at Hunt Valley Towne Centre can record 45 days of activity, zoom in to read license plates and allow managers to watch the video using personal digital assistants.

The private security guards who work at the shopping center don't have Internet access to the cameras, but Tyrangiel said they would soon be able to access the system on the computer screens on their Segway scooters.

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