Pelham village officials are investigating the feasibility of purchasing a portable surveillance camera system that will enable the police department to monitor different sectors of the community throughout the day.
The request comes during a time when police are trying to catch the suspect responsible for three armed robberies that took place near the Pelham Train Station this year, along with two more that took place in Larchmont and Harrison.
But the village is struggling to keep taxes down and create a budget that will fall below the state’s mandated property tax cap.
“There are pros and cons to doing this,” Mayor Edward Hotchkiss said during Tuesday’s budget workshop. “The main con is that it would be nice if we had a month or two to research this....we don’t have that. But I think that...we probably can make the case that given certain types of crimes, it would be very useful to have certain types of surveillance equipment.”
Police Chief Joseph Benefico said he is interested in a portable system.
“Nothing fixed that’s permanent, so we can move it to locations that we choose,” Benefico said. “Obviously, something right now would be somewhere in the [Pelham] Heights, during the normal course of business on Fifth Avenue, watching storefronts and things like that.”
The images recorded by the equipment would be transmitted back to police headquarters for review. Benefico said he planned to meet with officials from other jurisdictions who already similar surveillance systems in place today to get a better idea of where to buy the equipment and how much it will cost.
Benefico said the cameras won’t prevent a lot of crimes because criminals wouldn’t realize when or where they’re being used. But the cameras would help police identify suspects and solve crimes.
Hotchkiss said that Pelham Manor currently uses security cameras at Glover Field, Weihman Memorial Park and Shore Park.
There are currently 25 officers on the Pelham police force, which is the lowest in recent memory, according to Hotchkiss.
“I think a police officer is an expensive person to have, so if we’re going to expand our scope, this is kind of a logical way of doing it, because camera equipment doesn’t come with pensions,” Hotchkiss said.
Deputy Mayor Geoff Lewis said that any equipment that the village considers purchasing must be upgradeable.
“When we get down to doing this, we should really think about to what degree we can add on to it,” Lewis said.
The police department has a budget of $3,273,417 this year and is looking at relatively flat increase of more than $3.3 million next year. The majority of those increases are from salaries and compensated absences that are being included to account for any retirements that may take place next year.
The village is operating under a $12,476,469 budget for this fiscal year. The tentative budget for 2012-2013 that was released earlier this month was $12,855,122, which represented a budget to budget increase of about 3 percent and a tax levy increase that’s just shy of 4 percent.
The village needs a tax levy increase of 2.3 percent in order to stay within the state’s property tax cap, according to village Administrator Robert Yamuder. The board must approve the budget by a supermajority if officials intend to go over the tax cap
“I think, unless you really want to do something dramatic, we’re not going to make the cap,” Hotchkiss said. “This is the last week (in the budget process) and there’s nothing new.”
The board has another budget workshop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at . A public hearing on the tentative budget is scheduled for April 10 and the budget adoption is scheduled for April 24.
The village must have a budget approved by May 1.