Police-type lights were flashing blue and red in the sky over downtown Albany Thursday. On a bike ride Thursday night, I saw them from blocks away. What was going on?
The flashing lights topped a tall mast that rose from a stationary trailer parked in front of the old city hall at Second Avenue and Broadalbin Street. Also at the top: At least two cameras, or that’s the way it looked.
According to signage on the trailer, it’s a surveillance system made by Mobile Pro Systems in West St. Paul, Minn. On its website, the company touts its equipment for law enforcement, event security and just security in general.
The City of Albany Emergency Management program evidently bought the device, which its makers call Commander 3400, with “grant funding” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
It was way past office hours when I saw the thing on the eve of Labor Day weekend, and no one was around to explain why the city would buy a surveillance system like this with Homeland Security money, or how much the thing cost.
The main question, though, was: What was it doing there, surveilling or ready to surveil people at this downtown corner?
Here’s my guess: On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to throng that very corner and the streets in four directions. The occasion is what the organizers call the second annual downtown block party.
There will be food, beer, games and musical acts. The stage for the performers will be set up in the middle of the 200 block of Second Avenue West. The food and beer will be for sale. The games and music will be free.
If you want more information, look it up on Facebook, where the Sept. 2, 2023, block party has been promoted ever since the first one a year ago.
With a crowd crammed together near that corner, maybe it will be a good idea to keep an eye on the place from above. Just in case an emergency comes up. (hh)