POSTED: 07:33 p.m. HST, Feb 03, 2011
Only nine of the 40 surveillance cameras officials have planned to keep watch on the Big Island have been installed as authorities figure out how to pay for the electricity that will power them.
The cameras were installed on utility poles jointly owned by Hawaii County, Hawaiian Electric Light Co. and Hawaiian Telcom.
The police could pay the same rate the county pays to power its streetlights, but this would require the state Public Utilities Commission's approval. Another option would be to install individual meters on the poles, which wouldn't require PUC approval. Traffic signals are powered this way.
"We're exploring that," Weber told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald newspaper.
The cameras are meant to protect those who visit Big Island shops, eateries and outdoor markets, including flocks of tourists from cruise ships. The Hawaii Tourism Authority in 2008 gave the police department nearly $500,000 to install the cameras.
A pilot surveillance program on Oahu appeared successful in deterring crime, and the agency -- which is supported by a tax on hotel rooms -- decided to expand it to Maui and Hawaii Island.
The high-definition cameras are able to record images in the dark, identify license plates and capture faces. Data from the cameras are transmitted wirelessly and recorded on a computer for review.
So far, five cameras are operational in Hilo and a sixth is due to be installed soon on a private building. Kailua-Kona has four cameras running.
Hilo is due to receive 12 more, while Kailua-Kona will get 11 additional cameras. Pahoa, which doesn't have any so far, is expected to receive eight, and one will be installed at Akaka Falls.
Weber said the cameras that are working have had some success in capturing theft, noting one case that was turned over to prosecutors. One camera's video feed was used in the investigation of a fatal traffic accident in Hilo.
The area covered by the cameras depends on the site. Some of the dome enclosures have two cameras with a 180-degree field of view. Others allow a more detailed look at a particular area.