CHARLEROI – Charleroi police officers were in the station monitoring video surveillance early Tuesday when a man they recognized came into a camera’s view, waving around a knife in an alley.
Police claimed the camera captured the suspect entering a vehicle about 12:15 a.m. in the 400 block of Cherry Way, and that he later kicked open a door at 421 Fallowfield Ave. and entered the residence with another man.
“It’s like having another 20 sets of eyes,” police Chief Eric Porter said Wednesday, when the borough announced it planned to double the number of surveillance cameras for the police department, using $12,000 in donations.
“If you commit a crime outside in Charleroi, our police and the community will find you,” said Councilman Larry Celaschi, who noted that the borough will soon have 50 such cameras in operation.
A borough police officer on patrol spotted Tuesday’s burglary suspects, who fled upon seeing the cruiser, only to be arrested about eight hours later in the 400 block of Fallowfield Avenue, wearing the same clothing as they had on when captured in the surveillance video, police said.
The man police initially recognized on camera, James R. Cowart, 33, of Charleroi, and his alleged accomplice, Edward J. Stonick, 28, of Herminie, were charged with burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, trespassing, loitering and criminal mischief. They were placed in Washington County jail on $50,000 bonds set by District Judge Larry Hopkins.
The stolen items, including a fishing pole and radio, were all recovered by police.
Porter said the 25 cameras now in operation have proven their worth, including a sophisticated one on the roof of the borough building that cost $1,250. The others cost about $250 apiece.
“There has been more than one occasion where officers viewed something live and have gone outside and made an arrest,” Porter said.
The camera project dates to 2013, and its expansion resulted from a conversation between borough Mayor John Mollenauer and Patrick Garman, administrator of Spartan Health Surgicenter in nearby Carroll Township.
Garman, who has been restoring Charleroi’s historic McKean House, spearheaded the crime-reduction fundraising campaign that led to the purchase of the new cameras.
“It takes the burden off of the borough budget and the taxpayers,” Celaschi said.