Northampton Police to air proposal for surveillance cameras downtown

  • A surveillance camera is attached to a light pole along Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Boston. A year after twin pressure cooker bombs shattered the marathon and paralyzed the area for days, federal prosecutors say they have a trove of evidence ready to use against the surviving suspect, but many questions remain. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Surveillance camera at Ryan and Casey Recorder/Paul Franz PAUL FRANZ

  • Surveillance camera at Adam and Eve in Greenfield. Recorder/Paul FranzA surveillance camera catches everything at Adam and Eve in Greenfield. Recorder/Paul Franz PAUL FRANZ

@ecutts_HG
Published: 9/8/2017 12:03:19 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s Police Department is considering the addition of surveillance cameras to Main Street downtown, an idea being met with skepticism by the western regional office of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Police Chief Jody Kasper said she’d like to hear from residents about the idea before deciding whether to make a formal request. The Northampton Police Department will host a community discussion on surveillance cameras Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Northampton Senior Center, 67 Conz St.

On Thursday, Kasper said the department has been considering adding cameras to downtown to help the police force respond to a growing list of tasks.

“We are well aware that surveillance cameras are out there and they would provide us with a really effective way and more efficient way to combat problems in our downtown area,” Kasper said.

Cities such as Holyoke, Springfield and Boston have surveillance cameras in place in high-traffic areas.

The cameras would cost around $70,000 to $100,000 to install and would come from capital improvement funding, Kasper said. A request for money for the project has not been made.

Kasper said she didn’t want to make that request “without being really thoughtful about having an ability to address some of the concerns that may come up.”

In a post to the department’s Facebook page, Kasper wrote that the department believes the cameras could help reduce criminal behavior, harassment, improve pedestrian behavior and enhance traffic collision investigations. The cameras could also provide live monitoring “for the command center” during events such as First Night and the Pride march.

Next week’s discussion will begin with Kasper providing an overview of the proposed project before taking questions and feedback from residents.

Reached by phone Thursday, Bill Newman, director of the western regional office of the ACLU of Massachusetts, asked what had happened that Northampton needed to be turned into “a surveillance state.”

“In the absence of a compelling reason for this, that idea is misplaced,” Newman said.

Newman said the question of adding surveillance cameras to downtown has come before the city before but had been rejected. One reason, Newman said, was that there is already a significant number of surveillance cameras on Main Street.

A walk-through of the downtown finds private cameras everywhere, from the exteriors and interiors of banks and automated cash machines to a variety of restaurants and retail establishments.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.


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