On November 19, Brookline will hold a special town meeting to decide the fate of 11 intersection surveillance cameras that have stirred controversy since being installed in 2009.
The cameras were first set to monitor activity at stoplights, allowing police to crack down on traffic crime, such as speeding or running red lights. However, Brookline Police Department said it has realized the potential in preventing other crimes in the area. Still, the cameras have been met with backlash from some residents who are wary of growing advancements in the technology and potential infringement on civil liberties.
Brookline Police are only allowed to use the cameras between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but the department, as well as the citizen oversight committee that monitors use of the cameras, recommends increased usage to 24/7.
“Going back the last couple of years, we have been keeping track of what we’ve been able to capture on camera, and we’re also tracking the kinds of cases that occur when the cameras are not on,” Brookline Chief of Police Daniel O’Leary said in an interview Monday. “It is our belief that the cameras would be more effective if they were used 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Before the Board of Selectmen holds the vote on whether the cameras will stay or go, residents recently offered opinions on the necessity of the cameras.
“I think using them in major traffic intersections is justified, but I would be wary if they were put in other places. It’s an insane way to live with a camera watching you.”
—Mike Thaniah (above left), comedian and Brookline resident of 10 years
“I think it creates a presence of fear. Cameras are good for finding out who was the cause of an accident, but it steps into some territory that guides the future into a freedom inhibiting direction.”
—Drew Story (above right), Berklee student studying professional music and Brookline resident of four years
“I don’t personally like it. It’s infringement on privacy rights, and I don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s almost like give and take to feel secure and a right to privacy.”
—Ryan West, Northeastern University senior and new Brookline resident
“I don’t drive, so it’s less of a thing that I think about. But I think there are other things you can do to prevent [crime], and we can spend that money in better ways.”
—Erin Conrad, employed in computer software sales and a new Brookline resident
“I think they’re useful, and I’m all for them. In this day, the air of privacy is gone anyways.”
—Claudia Sokol (with her dog Cognac), a faculty member of Northeastern University and Brookline resident since 1988
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.