WILKES-BARRE — Big Brother is watching the bus station.
In a bid to improve security at the James F. Conahan Intermodal Transportation Center, the city has installed 64 new surveillance cameras trained on the facility’s transit platforms, parking decks, stairwell entrances and elevators, as well as walkways leading to and from Public Square, Wilkes-Barre officials said Wednesday.
The new devices bring the number of cameras to 300 citywide.
“Residents and workers deserve to feel safe, and a safe city is vital to a vibrant local economy,” Mayor Tom Leighton said.
“We’ll never be able to eliminate crime 100 percent, but it is more of a deterrent,” the mayor said of the cameras, which were installed using $325,000 in state gaming funds that were leveraged against a matching grant of $325,000 from the Federal Transit Administration.
Security at the combined bus station and parking garage has often been a concern for some users of the facility since it opened in the summer of 2010.
According to city statistics, incidents reported at the complex for 2012 and 2013 to date include: 18 public drunkenness complaints, seven thefts, six thefts from motor vehicles, five drug-related offenses (all were arrested), three disorderly conduct reports, three arrests on outstanding warrants, one criminal mischief complaint, one criminal trespass complaint, one simple assault complaint, one harassment complaint, one sexual assault and one sexual offense.
Drew McLaughlin, the city’s municipal affairs manager, noted some of those charges were arrests made of people arriving on long-distance buses, with police acting on warrants and information about potential drug trafficking to head off suspects as they came into the city.
The intermodal center was without city cameras until the new devices went online more than a week ago, although officials said Martz Trailways had cameras of its own in the area of its ground-floor ticket office.
City cameras throughout the facility will be active 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials said. While staff cannot monitor every camera at all times, the ability to immediately play back video is invaluable to investigators when incidents occur, Leighton said.
Video footage recorded by the cameras is normally maintained for seven days, officials said.