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NH laws on public surveillance read in different ways
A Speed Sentry box records the speed of vehicles on Kelley Street in Manchester. The boxes are 18 inches square and are bolted to the metal posts of stop signs. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
But others, including Bedford lawyer Andrew Schulman, a civil libertarian, says it appears that that particular law was intended to protect people from police cameras that identify and ticket them for running red lights and speeding, which it did - and little else. Schulman doesn't see anything in the law that would mean an outright ban on police surveillance cameras on public ways.
The law defines surveillance as "determining the ownership of a motor vehicle or the identity of a motor vehicle's occupants on the public ways of the state or its political subdivisions through the use of a camera...." A political subdivision would be local or county government.
Kurk disagreed, but if there is a loophole, he wants it closed.
"If (Schulman) is suggesting police can now put up cameras and take pictures of people walking on the street, I will be putting in new legislation," Kurk said. "The idea of using surveillance cameras on people who are peacefully assembling is totally contrary to people in New Hampshire."
"If that's the law, nobody's ever heard of it," Mara said of RSA 236:130, which is known as Highway Surveillance Prohibited.
"Say you have a fire down an alley or someone's breaking into cars all the time or vandalism. It's a tool law enforcement uses," Mara said. "As long as you are in a public place with no expectation of privacy, you can use it."
"If it makes the public safer, yes I do favor it. We can't be everywhere," Mara said.
"If the park is open to the public, and if they are taping the pond and people feeding the pigeons, it is not illegal," Sweeney said.
Reuters quoted NYPD spokesman Paul Browne: "The technology, having been inspired and engineered with a sense of urgency after 9/11, has obvious applications to conventional crime fighting."
Sound can only be recorded if people are told they are being audio recorded, he said.
Acting Hanover Police Chief Frank Moran said video surveillance is used there "every now and then in a specific criminal matter."
"It's too bad really. It is excellent technology," Moran said.
Moran also said there is one camera on top of the Hanover Town Hall that feeds into the police station. Sweeney said that camera could be problematic if police use it to monitor the nearby streets.
"Surveillance images could be retained by police forever and used in a whole variety of ways that citizens do not expect that information to be used," Kurk said.
"That's not New Hampshire."
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