By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — If the smokestacks at Salem Harbor Station came down tomorrow, about half of the city’s 29 security cameras would immediately go offline.
That’s because the city relies on equipment attached to one of those stacks — a “microwave array” — to relay footage from about 14 cameras to the police department on Margin Street.
Now, since those stacks, and the plant itself, are slated for demolition as part of Footprint Power’s plan to erect a natural gas-fired plant, officials say the array needs to be moved.
The array will need to be relocated to a high point where it can have a “direct line of sight” with the cameras that feed it, such as ones from the Willows area, said Capt. Mark Losolfo.
“We’re working to get it on the Salem-Beverly bridge, on the Salem side,” Losolfo said.
Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a recent letter to the City Council that the relocation work will cost about $94,000. Along with that sum, Driscoll asked the council to allot $56,000 — for a total of $150,000 — so the city’s downtown camera system can be beefed up at the same time.
City councilors voted to send the expenditure request to the subcommittee on administration and finance last night.
The city wants to install six new cameras, an increase of about 20 percent. The first four are to be located on light poles along Federal Street near J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center and the intersection of Washington and Federal streets. The city will kick in $27,000 for the project, and the district attorney’s office is expected to contribute the remaining $50,000.
Police Chief Paul Tucker said the cameras aren’t in response to any specific incident or situation. “It’s more preventative,” he said.
The other two cameras will be positioned on Washington Street in between Essex and Lynde streets. Officials say they’ll cost about $14,000 to install, and they’ll be especially helpful during the annual Halloween celebration.
Losolfo said the camera system was a valuable tool for the department, and “we’re always looking to add on if we can.”
“The downtown’s a busy area,” he said.
The remaining $15,000 of the $150,000 would be for miscellaneous purposes, such as purchasing and installing encoders that allow the city’s analog equipment to work on its new digital network.
Driscoll said in the letter that the cameras would “enhance our ability to protect private property, members of the public, and our law enforcement and judicial system employees.”
“As a community that hosts a significant courts complex, the busiest commuter rail station in the commonwealth outside of Boston, an industrial deepwater port, and a very active October tourism season, these tools are relied upon by both the Salem Police Department and our law enforcement partners,” she said.
The other half of the city’s cameras relay information to the police station via equipment on Charter Street. Those aren’t expected to be affected by the demolition of the power plant.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.