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Niagara Falls officials want new surveillance cameras to curb 'uptick in crime'

Niagara Falls police recently noticed crime increasing in the Pine Avenue area, so city and Niagara County officials decided to make things more difficult for the criminals.

Seven more video cameras will be installed in the city by summer, three of them along Pine Avenue, officials said Monday.

There has been been "an uptick in crime" in the area – mostly property crimes, but also some felonies, Police Superintendent E. Byron DalPorto said at a news conference in the City Market, in the heart of the Pine Avenue business district.

"Any type of uptick in crime, we will be right on it," DalPorto said.

The City Market is a block west of 19th Street, described in a Niagara University analysis of city crime statistics last year as the epicenter of violence in Niagara Falls. DalPorto said some of the new cameras will be placed in the 19th Street area, with new coverage also planned in the Highland Avenue area in the city's North End.

Crime has generally decreased in the Falls in the past four years, but some "hot spots" have emerged, DalPorto said.

The Niagara County Crime Analysis Center, already operating in Niagara Falls Police Headquarters, will monitor the cameras.

Last year, officials said the center took feeds from about two dozen fixed cameras in the city, a variety of mobile cameras and some 200 cameras at schools in the city.

The new batch of cameras includes two each bought by the city, the County Legislature and the Niagara County District Attorney's Office. The city also will refurbish and move one existing camera.

A pair of cameras costs under $15,000, said Dennis Joseph, local representative for the vendor, Wireless CCTV.

DalPorto wouldn't disclose the exact locations of the cameras.

"Perpetrators don't necessarily know where those cameras are located," Mayor Paul Dyster said. "They don't know what their reach is. They may think twice if they think an image of their face or of a license plate on their vehicle is likely to turn up in evidence against them."

"The protection that we have now is more than we've ever had, so we feel pretty secure on Pine Avenue, and the cameras are going to be a great help," said Sylvia Virtuoso of the Pine Avenue Redevelopment Project.

Dyster acknowledged that cameras won't stop every crime or lead to the arrest of every criminal. But he said technology along with observant citizens, "allow us to have a very, very good track record."

"Criminals are not welcome here," District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said. "We will find you, we will arrest you and we will successfully prosecute you."

She said her office uses drug asset forfeiture money to buy surveillance cameras.

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