Surveillance Cameras Added to Crime Hot Spots

Surveillance Cameras Added to Crime Hot Spots

Massachusetts city works to improve security with surveillance cameras.

Lawrence, Mass. is adding itself to the long list of cities implementing high-tech "eyes in the sky" to widen their surveillance arsenal. The city worked last week on installing the first of 110 surveillance cameras that will be located at major thoroughfares and high-crime hot spots throughout the city.

Police Chief Roy Vasque said the cameras will be added to areas where there is a high chance for criminal activity such as busy neighborhoods, three bridges connecting north and south Lawrence over the Merrimack River and along major roads "in and out of the city from any direction, so that you won't be able to come and go without hitting a camera somewhere."

Seventy-five cameras are being installed in the first phase of the project, which will be operating within the next month and will cost $200,000 to install and to maintain annually. About 35 more cameras will be added at a later time, another cost of $100,000.

The cameras work to relay live images to monitoring screens at police headquarters, where the images will be recorded and archived for at least 30 days. Some of the cameras will offer a fixed 180-degree view of a site, while others will be able to pan, tilt and zoom.

“There is a huge urgency and there is a huge problem when it comes to not just violence and crime, but drugs in our city,” Councilor Pavel Payano during the council discussion six months ago. “We see these cameras as an opportunity to stem the tide. (But there) is a need for legally enforceable safeguards that promote transparency, oversight and accountability for how these cameras are going to be used.”

Vasque and city lawyers developed a nine-page policy affirming that the cameras "will not be used to invade the privacy of individuals (or) survey the interior of private premises except as could be seen from the outside with a naked eye." The policy also says the cameras may not be pointed into places were people would have "a reasonable expectation of privacy," including inside their homes, but lists a number of exceptions.

"This [the installation of surveillance cameras] is to get bad guys doing bad things," Mayor Daniel Rivera said. "We need to make sure our community is safe."

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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