Video Surveillance Service Project 2013 Follow-Up

Audit Date: May 29, 2013
Audit Categories
  • Other
Controller: Alan Butkovitz
Audit Tags
  • Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT),
  • Police,
  • Public Safety

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
May 29, 2013

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz Finds Majority of Police Surveillance Cameras Not Working Properly
City Controller’s audit discovers only a third of the sampled cameras
were able to capture criminal activity

Video Surveillance Service Project 2013 Follow-Up

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released a follow-up audit of Philadelphia’s Police Surveillance Cameras that found only 32 percent of the sampled cameras were functioning properly.

The follow-up audit included a sample of 31 installed cameras to review the quality, performance and functionality. Following the release of the Controller’s initial surveillance camera audit last June, it was projected that 90 percent of the cameras would be working by September 2012.

“It is discouraging to report that only 32 percent of the sample cameras from around the city were functioning properly,” said Butkovitz, at today’s press conference.

“This means that at any given time when crime is occurring around our City, only a third of the cameras are able to capture criminal activity,” said Butkovitz.

The Controller’s observations of the video footage captured by the non-fully functioning cameras included the following:
• Condensation and water in camera domes and on the lens, making it impossible to identify people or objects,
• Images with jagged, pixilated edges when the camera captures movement, making it difficult to read licenses plates or other identifying items,
• Objects such as traffic lights and trees blocking visibility, and
• No image at all, rendering only a pink screen

As part of the follow-up audit, the Controller’s auditors visited the Baltimore Police Department’s state-of-the-art surveillance camera program, which has 97 percent of its cameras functioning at all times. When comparing the two cities’ surveillance camera programs, it was found that Baltimore has 7.5 times more cameras per person than Philadelphia, even though it has almost 900,000 less citizens.

Baltimore utilizes retired Police Department officers to operate the cameras and has two full-time technology staff, including one employee on call 24×7. Philadelphia uses active Police officers and has no full-time technology staff or employees on call.

Baltimore also has a scheduled maintenance plan, conducts daily cleanings and makes repairs within 24 hours. Philadelphia has no preventative maintenance program and repairs can take up to five weeks before they are addressed.

“With crime occurring every day in our city, Philadelphia needs to adopt necessary measures for its surveillance cameras to function properly,” said Butkovitz.

According to Butkovitz, the City needs to implement a preventative maintenance program to ensure that video surveillance cameras receive regularly scheduled cleaning and upkeep. It needs to deploy maintenance personnel to respond quickly to the malfunctioning cameras and dedicate at least one employee from the Office of Innovation Technology to manage the surveillance program on a full-time basis.

“Without taking action to improve our camera system, these cameras will continue to fail our police offices in solving crimes,” said Butkovitz. “More importantly, they will continue to fail at providing safety for Philadelphians.”

To view the City Controller’s Video Surveillance Service Project 2013 Follow-Up audit, please visit


Press Conference Visuals
(click images to enlarge)