Saturday, 2:15 PM
Cambridge rejects surveillance cameras
By Globe Staff
The Cambridge City Council has pressed the "Stop" button on a project that would have activated eight surveillance cameras in the community, saying the project raised concerns about possible invasion of privacy.
The council unanimously adopted two orders last night calling for a halt to work on the camera network. One, sponsored by Councilor Marjorie Decker, said "the potential threats to invasion of privacy and individual civil liberties outweigh the current benefits."
“The essence of this debate is that the council and I don’t have enough information” about the cameras, said Mayor Denise Simmons. “We don’t know how they’re going to be operated. We don’t know how they’re going to be governed. We don’t know who’s going to have access to the information that they collect.”
“There has not been enough public discussion about these cameras, so City Council is not convinced that their proposed benefits will outweigh the potential risk,” she said.
It was the first time a community in the state had rejected the cameras, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said in a statement.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, hundreds of communities across the country installed surveillance cameras funded by the US Department of Homeland Security.
But the cameras have sparked debate, the Globe reported in December. Law enforcement officials say the cameras can help them keep an eye on potential terrorism targets, manage traffic during an emergency, and investigate street crime, while civil liberties groups and some residents say the cameras could also be used, "Big Brother"-style, to follow people going about their daily lives.
Cameras were first put up in area communities on roads, bridges, and buildings in Boston, Chelsea, Everett, and Revere just before the Democratic National Convention in 2004. In the second phase, plans called for the original group to get additional cameras and for Cambridge, Quincy, Winthrop, Somerville, and Brookline to receive new cameras.
In Brookline, the installation of the cameras sparked heated debate, but the selectmen voted 3-2 in mid-January to give them a one-year trial, the ACLU said.