The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 24, 2014

Cambria adds security to thwart copper thefts

$230G state grant pays for project

EBENSBURG — Would-be copper thieves, be warned.

Anyone trying to steal copper wiring from any of the 17 towers that make up Cambria County’s 911 communications system will be caught on camera.

A $230,000 grant sought by the county’s department of emergency services has allowed for installation of cameras at the towers with a direct line to screens at the dispatch center in Ebensburg.

“We’ve had so many copper thefts. They steal the ground lines and anything that is copper,” county chief clerk Steve Ettien said. “It’s costing us thousands of dollars.”

Not only are the thefts expensive, but they also affect the 911 system, potentially impacting the safety of everyone in the county, Ettien said.

The grant was obtained through the federal Department of Homeland Security and was sufficient to cover all of the costs involved in providing the security cameras and the links to the center, the commissioners said Thursday in announcing the project.

“As soon as there is motion inside the fence, the cameras turn on and capture the images,” President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said. “It sends an alarm to the 911 center, and the operator there has the ability to watch what is going on at the tower site.”

Robbin Melnyk, deputy director of emergency services and county 911 coordinator, was credited with landing the grant.

Not only did the grant pay for multiple cameras at the towers, but there was funding to improve exterior security outside the county human services building where the 911 center is, Melnyk said.

The technology is state of the art, Ettien said.

“They monitor every inch of the tower area, and one glimpse of your face and we’ve got you,” he said.

The cost of replacing the copper wiring as well as repairs to fencing and other damage has been significant over the years, the commissioners said.

“We think this is going to save the county a great deal of money,” Lengenfelder said.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter. com/kathymellotttd.

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