Butkovitz Alarmed by Police Camera Program

Audit Date: June 20, 2012
Audit Categories
  • Performance
Controller: Alan Butkovitz

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2012

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz Alarmed by Police Camera Program
Controller’s Surveillance Camera Audit
found $136,000 price tag per operating camera

Audit of Philadelphia Surveillance Cameras

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released an audit of Philadelphia’s Video Surveillance program that found the city spent $13.9 million for surveillance cameras but only 102 of the 216 installed cameras were functioning properly. This has resulted in a cost to the city of $136,000 per operating camera.

“The cost is exceedingly alarming, and outright excessive – especially when $13.9 million is equivalent to the cost of putting 200 new police recruits on our streets,” said Butkovitz.

“It’s extremely troubling to find that only 102 of the 216 installed cameras were working properly,” said Butkovitz. “At any given time when crime is occurring around our City, only 47 percent of the cameras are able to capture criminal activity at camera locations.”

According to Butkovitz, the project has been plagued with problems from the beginning, starting with the assessment and risk phase. The audit also found an unsatisfactory performance from the selected vendor, which resulted in the city terminating the contract and placing the burden on the city’s limited resources to manage the surveillance cameras.

In addition, there was an absence of warranty information and maintenance records for cameras and other video surveillance equipment that was supposed to be maintained by the Office of Innovative Technology.

“Without proper documentation, the city could have paid for services that it already contracted for,” said Butkovitz. “We found numerous unopened boxes containing camera equipment at a warehouse and could not determine if the equipment was even compatible with the cameras currently installed.”

In January 2012, the City awarded $3.2 million in contracts for maintenance/service, supplies and installation of the video surveillance cameras. And by the time those contracts were conformed the cost increased to $3.6 million. This is in addition to the initial $13.9 million already spent, and money that was awarded without evidence that it was really needed.

“To ensure that every city tax dollar is spent effectively and efficiently, the city needs to weigh the benefits against the cost for allocating an additional $3.6 million,” said Butkovitz. “It needs to update maintenance records for all cameras and determine if any of the current equipment can be put to immediate use.”

Butkovitz continued, “The city needs to fully measure the success of the video surveillance program against the original project goals. This should be evaluated on a regular periodic basis and provided to city officials.”

“Providing effective public safety needs to be our city’s number one priority,” said Butkovitz. “It needs to be done in a cost-efficient method to ensure that every tax dollar goes toward efforts that properly protect our citizens.”