RENOVO — Renovo City Council spoke at length about installing a virtual neighborhood watch program recently.
A 45-minute discussion took place on Wednesday about the idea for this program – although no real action was taken during the initial discussion.
At the request of Mayor Gene Bruno, Clinton County Sheriff Kerry Stover and Steve Murgas of Murgas LLC were on hand to answer questions and offer general advice on the matter.
The general idea would be to have crime surveillance cameras posted in high traffic areas or places that have the potential for crime. The entrances to the city and the parks were mentioned several times.
Council members showed great interest — this was the first time the topic had come up in a meeting. We realized that it would not be an overnight procedure to put in place.
Stover gave many examples of how live cameras around town could help law enforcement while simultaneously deterring criminals from taking part in an unlawful act.
He often prefaced and ended his statements by emphasizing the importance of keeping private citizens who can help monitor cameras out of harm’s way as a top priority.
One suggestion discussed was that the board choose several people who they believe can be trusted to run such an operation. From there, the board itself or members approved by the board would essentially volunteer to have access to the cameras.
Next comes the training of those who pass the initial clearances.
This training would teach viewers how to be safe, when to notify law enforcement, and when to offer deterrents – a deterrent would depend on the type of camera being used. Some cameras could be armed with extraordinary bright lights or even alarm sounds that could be activated if a malicious act was seen occurring.
The anonymity of these volunteers was also discussed as an added layer of protection to ensure the safety of the person watching the live stream. A training program through the sheriff’s office was mentioned as a possibility.
Equally important, crime surveillance cameras would only be used to aid law enforcement or as a deterrent. The cameras should in no way constitute an invasion of privacy. Again, safeguards were discussed on how this would happen specifically using the technology.
Steve Murgas of Murgas LLC has worked with Renovo Borough as well as several businesses in the area. Murgas suggested that if the council applied for a $40,000 to $60,000 grant, it would set up a functioning virtual crime watch. He added that certain levels of protection would see a much lower price.
Murgas said any businesses in the city that have previously purchased cameras through Murgas LLC could volunteer to participate in the program. Likewise, any citizen who would like their home or property to be equipped with a camera could also choose to connect to virtual crime surveillance.
Renovo has struggled in recent years to maintain a stable police force.
Virtual crime surveillance gained interest because of this problem, although a minimal number of cameras could be purchased.
Renovo currently has two part-time agents on board. Stover explained that his department tries to visit the area two to three times a week. But other than providing a presence, it’s minimal as to what they’re capable of unless a crime is happening in front of them, he said.
Ordinance Officer Dave Walker said that with the use of virtual cameras he was aware of a force in Bucks County that was able to create a smaller police force when they combined the cameras as well as full-time agents.
In a similar vein, the council’s ordinances committee will seek to make changes allowing people to keep old, unregistered cars on their property, particularly in borough yards.
Cars registered as antique vehicles is a requirement they will likely put in the wording of the ordinance.
Council member Rhonda Balchun, the city’s longest-serving council member, recently received the Thomas F. Chrostwaite Award, marking 20 years of service. She received congratulatory applause from her fellow board members.