Luzerne County, Pa., to Add Security Cameras to Properties

More than 100 additional security cameras will soon be installed at several Luzerne County government properties now that funding has been authorized, Luzerne County Sheriff Brian Szumski said.

by Jennifer Learn-Andes, The Times-Leader / September 3, 2019
Shutterstock/Bk87

(TNS) — More than 100 additional security cameras will be installed at several Luzerne County, Pa., government properties now that funding has been authorized, county Sheriff Brian Szumski said.

The council there approved the $300,000 earmark last week as part of the latest capital plan, which allocated approximately $1.65 million in past-borrowed funds for various projects.

The county administration started price shopping for security cameras to monitor and record activity in and around county buildings in 2017, but the project was delayed due to a lack of funding.

Officials have said the courthouse and some other buildings rely on an insufficient number of cameras installed in 2001.

Szumski didn’t want to provide specifics about the system’s current vulnerabilities for security reasons but said the additions and upgrades are necessary.

“Many residences now have pretty substantial security systems that include cameras. It seems unwise for a government agency to not have something on par with that,” Szumski said.

A committee has been reviewing proposals and systems submitted by four vendors, and Szumski expects a contract to be awarded by the end of the year.

In addition to the courthouse, more interior and exterior cameras will be installed at these county-owned buildings in Wilkes-Barre: Bernard C. Brominski Building, North Street; Courthouse Annex, River Street; Penn Place and the human services buildings, both on Pennsylvania Avenue; the courthouse parkade and Emergency Management Agency building, both on Water Street; and the engineering/road and bridge building, Reichard Street.

Also in the plans are the county’s record storage building in Hanover Township and a Wilkes-Barre property the county leases to house human service offices on State Street, according to Szumski.

New and existing cameras from these and other county properties will all be linked to a hub in the courthouse monitored by sheriff deputies, Szumski said.

“It will be a traditional set-up like you’d see in a movie — a command center with screens on the walls,” Szumski said.

Installing the cameras and connecting them to a central hub will take months, he said. Depending on the vantage point, the mix will include cameras that can capture activity within 180 degrees and 360 degrees, he said. Some have digital zoom built in, he said.

“Technology has completely changed. There are cameras now that do the work of four, so we’re able to minimize the number of cameras,” Szumski said.

The county has stepped up security in recent years by moving security guards under the direction of the sheriff, expanding a security screening area in the courthouse basement, posting sheriff deputies at some human service properties and revamping security procedures and protocols.

County properties may be at a higher risk for trouble due to tension over child custody and support cases, court verdicts and tax and mortgage foreclosure auctions, officials have said. Close calls include a March 2017 firebombing at the county Children and Youth offices in Wilkes-Barre that was quickly extinguished without injuries and a May 2018 bomb scare that turned out to be unfounded.

“This is not the final piece. There will never be a final piece,” Szumski said, referring to the cameras. “We want to be as far-forward thinking as we can in security measures and best practices.”

County Manager C. David Pedri told council last week its allocations have helped make Luzerne “one of the most secure counties in the state.”

The new capital plan also provided these earmarks for other projects:

• Rehabilitation of the access tower at the county parkade — $200,000;

• Parkade structure rehabilitation — $300,000;

• Stormwater drainage improvements at county-owned parking lots — $200,000;

• Storage Area Network capacity upgrade to accommodate increased demand for virtual servers and data/backup storage — $59,000;

• Replacement of virtual server equipment reaching end of support — $154,000;

• Computer workstation and laptop upgrades — $250,000;

• Upgrade to Windows 10 operating system due to the January 2020 ending of extended Microsoft security patches for Windows 7 — $40,000;

• New cooling tower and pumps at Brominski building — $50,000;

• Countywide fund for emergency building repairs — $100,000.

By scaling back some administration requests, council came up with $303,000 for a capital plan emergency fund. Council Chairman Tim McGinley said council approval would be required for the administration to tap this money.

With all past and new earmarks factored in, the county has around $2.2 million left in the fund not pledged for projects, officials said.

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