U.S. Senate earmarks $750K for Pennsylvania cams

The 40 wireless cameras wouldn't simply monitor up to four high-crime neighborhoods in Allegheny County or integrate surveillance and security systems.

They wouldn't only deter violence or aid in prosecuting crime. And they wouldn't just be deployed during a natural disaster, surveying towns such as ones hit by flooding from the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

They would do all of the above, county leaders say.

"We believe it's going to pay dividends in a couple different areas," said emergency management Chief Robert Full. "You can cover a lot more territory with cameras and a police officer than just a police officer."

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $750,000 for the camera network in fiscal 2009, which begins July 1, officials announced Monday.

The bill, which includes a variety of other programs based in Pennsylvania, is headed for a vote by the full Senate. It would need House approval and the president's signature.

Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter touted the security program -- part of a map-based network dubbed the ThreatViewer Emergency Management Visualization System -- as part of a menu of programs that benefit area law enforcement.

"I am thrilled the Appropriations Committee has approved these projects for Pennsylvania," Casey, D-Scranton, said in a statement. "I will continue to work with Senator Specter to fund economic development programs, law enforcement and violence prevention initiatives, and scientific research projects throughout the commonwealth."

It has not been determined where the cameras might be deployed. Locations would be chosen with input from police and emergency responders, Full said.

Locations would not be permanent. Full said the system could be moved in a matter of hours, a key benefit when monitoring areas during natural disasters. It would be linked to existing camera systems, such as those used by PennDOT.

"The county executive has long been a supporter of using technology to enhance public safety," said Kevin Evanto, a spokesman for County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. "Obviously, police can't be everywhere at once."