Within weeks, Philadelphia police will have three wireless surveillance cameras at work in Fairmount Park.
The cameras, already in place on West River Drive and behind the Art Museum, are part of a "proof of concept" project being financed by a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, according to Deputy Police Commissioner Charles Brennan.
"We just want to see what this technology can do," Brennan said. "We believe the cameras can warn us in some instances that something is wrong." The cameras should be operating within two weeks, he said.
Other cities, including Chicago and New Orleans, already use video surveillance to address crime problems. Chicago police say the cameras, along with other crime-fighting programs, contributed to the city's 25 percent drop in homicides between 2003 and 2004.
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson recently said he wanted to further explore the option of adding cameras to the city's arsenal. The idea also has the support of District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham and State Rep. Jewell Williams (D., Phila.).
Police decided to try the program in the park partly as a result of three attacks attributed to the man known as the Fairmount Park rapist and murderer.
The man, who is still at large, is suspected of raping and killing medical student Rebecca Park in July 2004, raping another woman in April of that year, and assaulting a third that October. The Fox television show America's Most Wanted is slated to devote a portion of its March 19 program to the cases.
The park also presents particular challenges to police, Brennan said. Lost hikers often have trouble pinpointing their locations, and cellular telephone service is spotty in some areas.