Today, the ACLU-NH filed a lawsuit on behalf of 4 petitioners (and I’m one of them! :)) to block the use of police surveillance cameras on Elm Street in Manchester. Here is the ACLU-NH’s press release:
Surveillance cameras would violate a NH privacy law because they will capture motorists’ identifying information
CONCORD, N.H. – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit challenging planned surveillance cameras in downtown Manchester. The cameras, which would capture live video of traffic on Elm Street, are illegal because they violate a state privacy law that specifically disallows cameras that capture a motorists’ identifying information, such as their face or license plate.
“The surveillance cameras proposed by the City of Manchester are troubling: driving down Elm Street shouldn’t include recording video of your face, license plate, and passengers,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director at the ACLU of New Hampshire. “New Hampshire is a state that staunchly defends its right to privacy, and this plan is a direct violation of that by needlessly capturing the information of thousands of Granite Staters simply going about their business.”
The current installation plan includes three permanent surveillance cameras in the area of City Hall that will look north and south on Elm Street, with a live feed transmitted to the Manchester Police Department’s dispatch office. The images captured would be recorded and stored for fourteen days. Although the intent may not be to monitor traffic, the high quality of the cameras allow users to zoom in and out, and would inevitably capture faces and license plates.
Former Representative Neil Kurk, who drafted the law in 2006 and is a petitioner in the case, said:
“The statute we are defending in this lawsuit is unique to New Hampshire and, unlike other states, provides our citizens with a right to be free from government intrusion that is tantamount to a surveillance state. The goal of this statute is to prevent New Hampshire from becoming like New York City or London where government surveillance through cameras—regardless of whether the surveillance cameras capture criminal activity—is pervasive. I am deeply disappointed that Manchester is going down the path of government intrusion by installing surveillance cameras on Elm Street. This is exactly the type of surveillance that the statute was and is designed to prevent.”
Carla Gericke, a former New Hampshire State Senate candidate and petitioner in this case, said:
“How can the police simply start surveilling downtown people and motorists without any input from the community? When I learned about the Manchester Police Department’s plan to put up surveillance cameras downtown, I organized a protest rally, and about 40 people attended. I am deeply concerned about this government intrusion. I am confident that Granite Staters do not want this type of surveillance because more than 80% voted to protect privacy when they amended the New Hampshire Constitution last year.”