After Pitt student Alina Sheykhet was found dead in her apartment last October, investigators found their biggest lead in private surveillance footage from a local pizza shop — and in the 10 months since, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office, in partnership with Pitt and UPMC, has installed 60 surveillance cameras throughout Central Oakland.
In a public press conference Tuesday to announce the project, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala revealed 16 live feeds from several of the cameras, which displayed footage from residential areas in Central Oakland as well as UPMC Presbyterian Hospital and other frequently traveled areas.
“I want this to be a deterrent to someone getting hurt,” Zappala said. “This is part of what’s going on countywide. This camera system can be reactive and proactive.”
The first cameras were installed shortly after Sheykhet’s death. Surveillance footage from Central Oakland showed Matthew Darby, who currently stands trial for first degree murder, hiding weapons allegedly used in the killing.
“That’s happenstance,” Zappala said. “This is a much more comprehensive effort, and Alina’s death had a lot to do with it.”
The project to install all 60 cameras cost $95,000 — UPMC contributed $65,000, and Pitt and the DA’s office each contributed $15,000.
“It’s a minimal investment when you’re talking about protecting our kids,” Zappala said.
With the addition of these 60 cameras, there are now 450 cameras in Allegheny County. Six of the cameras installed in Oakland have license plate recognition, bringing the total number of cameras in Allegheny County with this feature to 60.
Zappala emphasized the importance of making sure the students in Oakland are comfortable with the new cameras while keeping them safe.
“I think we have to engage the kids a little bit better too,” he said. “What do the kids want in terms of a safe environment? What are they willing to give up in terms of privacy?”
Pitt released a statement via email saying that their support of the new cameras was for the safety of students.
“The University welcomes any measure to ensure the safety of our students, staff, faculty, visitors, and residents of Oakland,” the statement said. “Pitt joined in this partnership with the District Attorney and UPMC to enhance safety and security in our campus community and neighborhood. These cameras are a great tool for law enforcement and will supplement the cameras already in use.”