Selectmen Approve Video Surveillance Changes at Park-and-Ride Facilities

March 7, 2014

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

Better resolution security video recording at state park-and-ride facilities could assist law enforcement during investigations and protect local residents, and Salem selectmen will now support the proposal.

Mark Sanborn, Director of Government Relations for Concord Coach Lines, operating as Boston Express in Salem, asked the board Monday to reconsider their previous vote opposing House Bill 1250.Sanborn said the bill would allow for current surveillance equipment installed at state park-and-ride facilities to record at a much higher resolution, providing accurate face detection and legibility of vehicle license plates.“The equipment is there,” Sanborn explained, noting a low-resolution recording was currently being used.

The bill would also limit the time recordings could be maintained.  If approved, files would be deleted 24 days after acquisition.  Currently no limit exists on how long the video can be stored.

Sanborn said cars are permitted to be parked in the facility for 21 consecutive days, and the proposal would allow three additional days for the video to be maintained.

Selectman Patrick Hargreaves raised concerns over the availability of recordings to the public, saying a husband could obtain footage to stalk his wife through the right-to-know law.

Sanborn explained that that scenario was already possible.  “That can already happen, what you’re describing,” he told Hargreaves.

But Sanborn said it was important to support the proposal for the safety of residents and employees.

Concord Coach Lines also operates in Maine where higher resolution cameras have been approved.  Sanborn said his company has worked with state and local authorities to track theft, drug sales and trafficking, among other crimes.

Selectman Stephen Campbell feared the availability of video through a right-to-know request.  “Anybody could put in a request,” he said, adding he would like to hear from residents against the proposal.

Campbell was also concerned law enforcement would have to file paperwork with the state to obtain footage during an investigation.  “It may not be well thought out,” he said.  “I’m not for something that may not work.”

Chairman Everett McBride praised the proposal, saying it would increase protection for locals.  “I want to protect the public to the extent that is humanly possible,” he said.  “If someone’s doing something wrong there, then they should be caught.”

Selectman Michael Lyons said he had previously voted against the bill as not enough time had been given for a thorough conclusion to be made.

The proposal would affect the exit two park-and-ride site off of Interstate 93 in Salem, along with eight other locations throughout the state.

Sanborn said live feeds from the system would only be available onsite and at a single remote facility.

Selectmen approved the proposal, 3-2, with Selectman James Keller and Campbell in opposition.

Salem is the last of several communities affected by the bill to approve it.

If approved by state lawmakers, the system changes would take effect 60 days after passage.