According to Township Administrator Chris Pianese, the state's Urban Enterprise Zone authority approved a preliminary design for a monitoring station on the currently unused third floor of Town Hall.
Following the lead of a similar program instituted in Jersey City, the cameras would be positioned on streetlamps along the UEZ-designated streets, such as Bergenline Avenue, Broadway, West Side Avenue, Tonnelle Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. The 100 cameras would be monitored by police officers located in the closed-circuit headquarters in Town Hall.
"It would resemble the headquarters that you see in such shows as '24' and 'Las Vegas,' where there are rooms with many monitors, watching everything," Pianese said. "It would be a perfect compliment to our existing police staff, giving the police another set of eyes and proving not only to be a deterrent for crime, but also solving crime itself."
In examining the Jersey City closed-circuit TV system as a model, Pianese pointed out that the cameras in Jersey City caught a group of violent teenagers beating up homeless people on Martin Luther King Drive. The videotape was used as evidence against the criminals in the respective cases.
"Jersey City has been doing it for quite some time and it has proven to be successful," North Bergen Police Chief William Galvin said. "I like the way it works. It's going to be a huge asset for law enforcement. It's like having an extra cop on the street. Even in Jersey City, police have been able to spot fires breaking out before they were called in by just turning the camera on to the fire."
North Bergen received the approval for the first phase, getting $150,000 from the state UEZ to begin the design phase of the project.
"Once we get the designs in place and get estimates as to how much the entire project will cost, then we will put in the second phase of the application process," Pianese said. "We figure it will cost $5-to-$6 million for the renovations to Town Hall and then the entire camera system."
Ten cameras elsewhere
Roughly 90 of the cameras will be located in the UEZ districts, but Pianese said an additional 10 cameras will be situated near township schools, parks and other areas where activity might take place. The UEZ would fund the major portion of the project, but the township would have to foot the bill for the additional 10 cameras.
After receiving approval for the first phase, the township awarded Cubellis Ecoplan, an Englewood Cliffs architectural and engineering firm, a $68,500 contract to prepare plans for the renovation of the third floor of Town Hall.
Boswell Engineering is developing the plans for the actual camera system.
"Boswell is doing the design/build specifications for the camera system on the streets," Pianese said. "They do the designs themselves, so it doesn't require an architect. This way, we're kind of getting the whole thing done in one shot."
Pianese said that he has been working closely with Galvin as to where the cameras would best be situated.
"As long as the UEZ gives us the funding, we'd love to have it happen," Galvin said. "I know the Mayor [Nicholas Sacco] is behind it as well. I think the residents of the township would be happy. We want to be able to get things going by the end of the year, if we get the funding by then."
Galvin said that the cameras will be used for more than just common surveillance.
"We'll be able to see cars coming in and leaving town," Galvin said. "If we have a car that is stolen in say Newark or Elizabeth, we'll be able to see if it came into North Bergen and at what time. We'll be able to pinpoint times more often. If a child is missing, maybe we would be able to see them on camera."