Hoboken has failed to keep a network of city-owned surveillance cameras working since 2010, including at least two cameras positioned on the waterfront where a jogger went missing last weekend, the I-Team has learned.
Juan Melli, a spokesman for Mayor Dawn Zimmer, confirmed that the cameras went offline nearly four years ago, after a contract expired with the company that designed and maintained the network.
“A couple years ago, we brought in an engineer," said Melli. "They said this system is old and not maintained and the recommendation was that they really weren’t usable."
In all, the city of Hoboken owns a network of 10 inoperative surveillance cameras, including one that is mobile, according to Melli. He did not reveal the exact locations of the inoperative cameras for security reasons, except to say two of them are on the waterfront.
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On Sunday, 27-year-old Andrew Jarzyk went missing after a late-night jog along the Hoboken waterfront. He was last seen by friends around 1 a.m. at the West 5 Super Club on Hoboken’s Madison Street. About an hour later, surveillance video from a private camera owned by a nearby restaurant showed Jarzyk in exercise clothing running along the waterfront. The video is grainy and the quality is poor; Jarzyk runs out of the frame in a matter of seconds.
Had Hoboken’s municipal cameras been operative, they may have captured better images of the missing man.
Hoboken’s municipal camera network was initially designed and maintained by PackeTalk, a Lyndurst company established in 2004 that promises “high resolution cameras and fail safe transmission systems.” The PackeTalk website lists other municipal clients including the City of Passaic, East Orange, West New York and Garfield.
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Neither the Hoboken mayor’s office nor PackeTalk could say when or how the cameras first failed. However, PackeTalk founder Tamer Zachary told the I-Team he provided Hoboken with more than 10 cameras.
“I know for a fact it’s not 10," said Zachary. "Absolutely it’s more."
Zachary said his company had a contract with the City of Hoboken Police Department “from 2004 to roughly the end of 2009.” He estimated the city’s annual payments for upkeep and maintenance of the cameras were between $30,000 and $40,000.
“They always paid for the cameras through grants but when it came time to pay their maintenance fees, they decided to stop paying,” Zachary said.
According to Melli, the payments for camera maintenance ended in 2009 because at that time, a state-appointed fiscal monitor deemed the contract with PackeTalk had not been properly bid out.
Although Hoboken’s maintenance agreement with PackeTalk ended in 2009, Zachary said there is no reason the Hoboken Police Department wouldn’t have been able to continue using the equipment.
“Everything was left functional the day they refused to renew the contract,” said Zachary.
Hoboken Police Chief Anthony Falco Sr. did not return the I-Team’s call for comment.
Although the city of Hoboken currently has no functional municipal-owned surveillance cameras, Melli said other public entities like the Hoboken Housing Authority and Hoboken Board of Education do have operative cameras.
Melli said the Zimmer administration has been working to get new surveillance cameras as expeditiously as possible.
Two weeks ago the city was notified it won a FEMA Port Security Grant that will pay for eight new security cameras on the waterfront, he said. The City Council must still vote on whether to accept the grant.
“We started applying for grants in 2010. It’s not that we haven’t made it a priority,” said Melli.