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Suffolk County Overt Camera Program Seeks To Prevent Crime Before It Happens

GREENLAWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Committing a crime and getting away with it is about to get a little tougher in Suffolk County.

As CBS2's Marc Liverman reported, the goal of the new overt camera program is to stop crime even before it starts.

"It's a bad feeling," said Mohammad Afzaal.

Afzaal, owner of One Stop Deli on Broadway in Greenlawn, was talking Monday about the feeling he gets when he walks into his store to find out it has been robbed.

"They break the door, everything on the floor. They break -- the first time, they break the cash register," he said.

And it has happened more than once. Afzaal said he was robbed at least three more times in the eight years he has owned the deli. In all, the robberies have cost him more than $10,000.

But that might all be about to change now that Suffolk County is announcing a new overt camera program, with 12 cameras right out in the open being installed all over the county. There is at least one in every precinct – including one right outside Afzaal's store.

The preventative goal even includes stopping crimes by violent gangs such as MS-13.

"If there is a gang hangout and we want to make our presence known, this is a tactic that we could use," said Suffolk County police Commissioner Timothy Sini.

All of the overt cameras have the ability to pan, tilt and zoom, and all of them are mobile.

"We can take these cameras and we can move them wherever we want," Sini said, "and how are we going to determine where they go? Of course, based on crime statistics; based on community feedback."

The 12 cameras cost about $130,000. Suffolk County police said all of the money comes from asset forfeiture funds.

But are 12 cameras really enough in a county of 10 towns and 33 villages that is 86 miles long and 26 miles wide? It depends on which resident you ask.

"I guess only time will tell," said Richard Holmes of Greenlawn.

"Well I'm not happy we have to do it, but I'm happy that we have it, because it will deter crime," another man said.

Police said if the program is successful, they plan on adding more cameras. But so far, they have not said when.

When CBS2 asked if there were any privacy concerns, police said because the cameras are out in the open in public places and are well-marked, there should be no complaints.

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