SEPTA on Tuesday rolled out its first mobile surveillance unit, which features several solar-powered cameras mounted on a telescopic pole capable of reaching heights of up to 30 feet.
“We have yards and stations – larger footprint properties – and we can take that mobile surveillance camera 18 to 30 feet and position it to provide real time surveillance capabilities anywhere on our properties,” spokeswoman Jerri Williams said.
The acquisition – which was financed by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant – is part of SEPTA’s push to beef up its surveillance system by 2015 from the estimated 12,000 to 15,000 cameras the agency operates now to a total of 24,000 cameras.
SEPTA plans to soon outfit all trolleys, rail stations and buses with cameras. Two-thirds of the agency’s buses are already under surveillance, along with all of its subway and elevated trains and stations and its new Silverliner V regional rail trains.
But Williams said many of SEPTA’s large yards and lots aren’t currently equipped for remote monitoring, hence the need for the mobile unit.
“So say we’re building new construction or we have our trains sitting out and they’re being graffitied,” she said. “We now have the capability of taking this mobile surveillance unit and deploying it to that remote location.”
SEPTA officers can monitor the feed from any computer, laptop or tablet.
The footage will also be available to Philadelphia police officials, who Williams said already looked a little green when they got a glimpse of SEPTA’s latest toy on Tuesday outside the agency’s Market Street headquarters.
“That’s why we had it out front,” she said. “They were interested in taking a look and may be interested in obtaining one of their own. In the meantime there’s also the possibility, if need they it, for us to make it available for them to use.”
Williams admitted the camera is cumbersome but said when it comes to surveillance, size doesn’t matter.
“Some people may look at it and say, ‘It’s pretty big – people may see that.’ Well, that’s good. If you’re planning on committing a theft or vandalism on our property, it might make you think twice, turn around and go back home.”
The camera will be placed into service immediately, but Williams declined to share the location where it will first be dispatched.