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Digital cameras on patrol duty
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
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HOLYOKE - From high above Sargeant Street, a car could be seen racing up the hill, under the railroad overpass and careening a hard right onto High Street.

Not far behind, a State Police car - responding to a reported car-jacking in Springfield - gave chase, followed by three city cruisers, making the same turn and disappearing from view.

From the throng of onlookers watching the big-screen projection yesterday, a chorus of "oohs" and "ahs" issued before the lights were switched on in the second-floor conference room at police headquarters here.

The real-life action movie, captured earlier in the day by one of five recently activated digital surveillance cameras, was part of a demonstration of the new anti-crime technology adopted by Police Chief Anthony R. Scott.

The suspect, Scott said later, was arrested by city police.

The five cameras, bulletproof swivelers installed on city-owned utility poles at high-crime intersections in the Flats and Churchill sections of the city, are hooked up to six supervisory computers at police headquarters. From there, they can be aimed, focused and zoomed.

During yesterday's hourlong event, Scott was surrounded by politicians, law enforcement notables, city officials and the press.

Scott moderated the event, which also featured a demonstration of how the cameras can, from more than two blocks away, zero in on a vehicle license plate or swing around in a 360-degree arc.

He also handed out copies of a new city policy governing the legal and ethical use of the cameras and their digital work product.

Mayor Michael J. Sullivan opened the show, vowing to increase the number of cameras - perhaps tying up to existing apartment block or business surveillance cameras - and to use all technologies to help clear crime from the streets.

Sullivan also thanked Olde Holyoke Development Corporation President Richard P. Courchesne, who got the project started last year when he said he would pay for some cameras.

In all, four agencies - Olde Holyoke, the police department, the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department and the Community Development Office - contributed $40,000 apiece in cash or in-kind services.

Courchesne said publicity about the cameras and installation of one camera near one of his organization's apartment houses has already had the desired effect. Before the camera was even turned on, he said, the drug dealers disappeared from the street out front.

"It's the deterrent part of it" that is important, Courchesne said. "The buyers aren't coming to Holyoke."

The cameras are located at Center and East Dwight streets, Center and Mosher streets, Sargeant and Chestnut streets, Sargeant and Walnut streets and North East and East Dwight streets.

Scott said he already has two more cameras planned, one that Courchesne's organization will buy and another to be purchased by his own department.
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