Marc Warner: Wants less absolutist stance on cameras

  • jacoblund

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
Wants less absolutist stance on cameras

The majority of the Northampton City Council, Gazette columnist Bill Newman and many others around town seem to view the issue of downtown surveillance as if it were on par with Thomas Paine calling for independence or John Brown’s stand against slavery.

Good grief. A less passionate, less absolutist assessment would be a lot more sensible.

Consider that the proposed ordinance seeks to ban not just cameras but automatic license plate readers. Too late. We’ve already got them. It’s a key feature of the downtown’s new parking system. We type in our license plate number at the parking kiosks. A city vehicle then comes around and uses an automatic license plate reader to check the good standing of every vehicle at the curb.

Northampton and Massachusetts have also raised the idea of requiring police body cams. Do those who oppose surveillance technology but who have also called for police body cams have no inkling that maybe there’s a little hypocrisy here?

Massachusetts may one day also join the 26 other states that currently allow red light enforcement cameras. The proposed anti-surveillance ordinance, however, would preclude this use in Northampton. Is that really what those against the surveillance technology intend? They may be unwittingly mistaken about the fundamental right to privacy while in the downtown (that’s why it’s “public”), but they surely can’t insist on a fundamental right to run a red light.

Look, I too am against putting surveillance cameras downtown. But my issue doesn’t call for a high-horse ordinance. Nah, I just don’t think it’s worth the money.

Marc Warner