Holyoke to install surveillance cameras downtown
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Holyoke to install surveillance cameras downtown

AP | January 3, 2005

HOLYOKE, Mass. — Holyoke plans to install five surveillance cameras at high-crime areas in the downtown area within the next few weeks, Police Chief Anthony R. Scott says, a crime-fighting tactic that is becoming increasingly common in urban areas, but which civil libertarians say is an invasion of privacy.

Holyoke will be the first city in the state other than Boston to install such cameras, Scott said. Boston installed many of the cameras this summer in response to potential terrorist threats during the Democratic National Convention, but they remain operable.

The high-resolution cameras are gunshot-proof and multidirectional, allowing police to zoom in and focus on suspects and vehicle license plates.

The Holyoke program is modeled on similar programs in Tacoma, Wash. and Chicago, where authorities experienced sharp drops in drug activity and prostitution in areas where the cameras were installed.

As gang members, prostitutes and drug dealers move away from surveilled areas, new cameras will likely be installed, said Olde Holyoke Development Corp. president Richard P. Courchesne, who pushed for use of the cameras.

The cameras are needed for the protection of law-abiding citizens, Courchesne said.

Mayor Michael J. Sullivan he wants to expand the program to include a dozen cameras later this year. "And if everything goes well, we could be at 200 (cameras) in the next 2½ years," he said.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer William C. Newman said the cameras erode personal privacy on the streets and is concerned that they will be used to spy on law-abiding citizens.

"Information is power," he said. "And this gives an enormous amount of power to law enforcement."

Newman said there needs to be firm policies on how long police will keep images, who will have access to them and how they will be used.

Scott said he is willing to try "anything that makes the streets safer that is legal," and the cameras will only be deployed on public streets or on private property at the owner's request.

"Nobody's going to be prying into bedrooms," he said.

The $2,500 cameras, a computer server and the required software are on order, but have not yet been delivered, Scott said. Fiber-optic cables have also been strung from the undisclosed camera locations into the basement switching room at police headquarters.

When all the components are hooked up, monitors will be installed in various places in police headquarters.

Gunfire sensitive 'watch' planned

The Republican | October 19, 2004


HOLYOKE - Following a meeting last week with the police chief, a housing advocate and other city officials, Mayor Michael J. Sullivan has directed that a pilot program employing digital surveillance cameras be quickly begun.

Modeled on programs in other cities, including Chicago and Tacoma, Washington, the project would install the cameras on utility poles in high-crime areas, hooking up the controls and high-quality streaming video into a central command post at the police department.

"I'm asking that they be directional and gunfire sensitive," Police Chief Anthony R. Scott said yesterday. Fitted with microphones and protected by bulletproof housings, the cameras he wants employed would "immediately point in the direction of the gunfire and zoom in," he said.

Scott said his staff is recommending high-crime locations in the city where the first cameras would be installed.

The cameras, he said, "have shown to be effective in the communities where they're being used," said Scott. "But they're not going to be continuously monitored."

The mayor, he said, "has given us a directive to ... see this off the ground and running" by January.

Olde Holyoke Development Corporation President Richard P. Courchesne, who last month publicly urged surveillance cameras be installed on utility poles, was at last week's meeting.

So was Holyoke Gas & Electric Manager James M. Lavelle, whose poles would house the cameras, and an official from the Holyoke Housing Authority, which might participate in the camera program.

Evidence from other communities shows the cameras can deter certain crimes and give police investigative assistance after crimes are committed, Sullivan said. "It's just another tool."

To kick off the program, Sullivan said, Courchesne and Scott will each come up with $40,000 to buy five cameras - pegged at $2,500-$3,000 apiece - and the high-tech computer hardware and software needed at the police station.

"I'm going to try to get $40,000 from drug forfeitures or from a grant," said Scott.

If successful, Sullivan said, the program could eventually tie in surveillance cameras in front of schools, at businesses and in other civic buildings.

In some communities, selected cameras are hooked into the public-access cable TV channels to let citizens watch for themselves the camerawork, an idea that could work here, the mayor said.

Lavelle said his staff will quiz Tacoma officials to see which technologies worked for them and which didn't "so we can get ahead of the learning curve." The concept of surveillance cameras, though, "certainly makes sense," he said.

"There's a lot of excitement about this," Sullivan added. "And I'd like to get this up and running by the end of the year."

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911:  The Road to Tyranny