SALEM — Some selectmen are hesitant to back a proposal to have high-resolution surveillance cameras at the commuter lot off Interstate 93.
Privacy concerns outweigh the need to film everyone who visits the park-and-ride lot, especially since there are many unanswered questions about the plan, Selectman Stephen Campbell said.
“People start to fear Big Brother is watching their every move,” he said.
Town Manager Keith Hickey told selectmen at their meeting Monday that the Legislature is considering a bill to allow the cameras at park-and-ride lots across the state. That includes the lot near Exit 2 off I-93 and the park-and-ride lots near Exits 4 and 5 in Londonderry.
It’s hoped the cameras will help reduce crime at the lots, Hickey said.
“If there are any crimes that occur at these park-and-rides, they would be a tool for state and local police to find out who caused the crimes,” Hickey said.
The legislation, House Bill 1250, is sponsored by Rep., Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, and calls for the installation of cameras at six other commuter lots as well.
The bill was proposed at the request of transit operators, according to New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman William Boynton. The House Public Works and Highways Committee held a hearing on the bill Jan. 23.
“This is a bill we support,” Boynton said Tuesday.
Most park-and-ride lots already have surveillance cameras set at low resolution, as required by state law, but they do not capture perfect images of a person’s face or a license plate, he said. Those are needed to prosecute criminal suspects.
If the bill is passed by the Legislature, the resolution would be adjusted so faces and license plates would be recorded, Boynton said.
But several questions about the legislation, including the handling of surveillance images, raised concerns at the selectmen’s meeting.
“Do we have any idea how long the state keeps this record? That’s my concern,” Campbell said. “The idea of storing this forever is not justified.”
Privacy concerns are an issue occasionally raised in New Hampshire concerning the photographing of motorists, especially at tolls. Photographs taken at tolls are immediately deleted unless drivers do not pay their fare, Boynton said.
The surveillance images would be deleted soon after they are taken unless needed for a criminal investigation.
Selectman Michael Lyons said he wasn’t ready to support the proposal.
“It sounds good, but ... There has to be another side to this,” he said.
The only selectman to express his support for the bill was Chairman Everett McBride Jr.
“In my opinion, we ought to be doing it to prevent crime,” McBride said. “I will publicly say I’m in favor of it.”
Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said he supports having high-resolution cameras at the two lots in his town, where break-ins have been reported in the past.
The privacy issue is not a concern, he said.
“We’re generally supportive of the legislation,” Smith said. “I think it will be an additional tool to (prevent crime) in this community.”