Video cameras are filming the 2600 block of Brownsville Road in Carrick as part of a new wave of neighborhood watchmen.
Two years in the making, Councilwoman Natialia Rudiak announced Friday the start of a “Virtual Block Watch” in Carrick's business district. Fifteen business owners invested a combined $2,850 to purchase and install cameras outside of their locations directed at public thoroughfares, while Rudiak’s office provided $1,080 for signage.
Residential neighborhoods, including locations in the South Side, have collaboratively used surveillance block watch systems to record criminal activity, but Rudiak said this is the first for a business district.
The collaboration between the Pittsburgh Police Department and neighborhood leaders could be a model for other communities, she said. The city currently has 86 active block watches, including Carrick's.
“Although this is the first virtual block watch in Pittsburgh, this program will serve as a pilot for other communities to adapt to their neighborhoods and business districts," she said. "We’re proud to be a leader in that.”
Surveillance footage is owned by individual business owners and shared with local law enforcement. The cameras could assist in identifying a perpetrator of a crime, Rudiak said.
“We have much work to do," she said. "None of the problems that we have here were created overnight, and they won’t necessarily be solved overnight. But today I’m happy to say that our work and our message is advancing.”
Greg Casteilli, owner of Castielli Law Offices and one of the 15 business partners, said it will take time for the footage to help prevent crime, but it could help immediately track down criminals.
“We are on the edge of Zone 3," he said. "We know it and unfortunately the criminal element knows it. And as hard as (officers) work, they can’t always get here as fast as they need to be. But with these cameras, this neighborhood is fighting back. This is our first step forward in a community that’s been under siege.”
Police Commander Lt. Larry Scirotto said during the planning phases of the program that the system wouldn’t eliminate crime, but it will make people think about what risk they are willing to take.
“We continue to push forward with this police community partnership because it’s important," he said. "We can’t do this alone."