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Peterborough police compiling list of private surveillance cameras

  • A security camera on a building in downtown Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • A security camera on a building in downtown Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/6/2020 9:20:04 AM

The Peterborough Police Department is compiling a list of businesses and residents with surveillance technology, and is encouraging locals with security cameras or smart home technology like video doorbells to notify the department so officers know where they could potentially collect footage from in event of a crime.

Knowing where to find additional video footage could help in solving crimes like a home burglary, Police Chief Scott Guinard said.

“If we know that a house nearby has surveillance equipment,” he said, “we would simply ask the homeowner” if they could check for footage of a suspected perpetrator’s vehicle passing by, for example. Police have requested footage from some private cameras in the past to assist with investigations, for example, incidents that happened in the parking lot outside a business with a camera, he said.

“It’s not a warrant situation, it’s all voluntary, completely voluntary,” Guinard said. A post on the department’s Facebook page said that the map of buildings with surveillance capabilities would be confidential and only used with the owner’s consent, and police would ask for listed owners’ consent before requesting footage in the event of a crime.

New Hampshire ACLU political director Jeanne Hruska said she has concerns over the word “voluntary.”

“Every time the police ask for something, it’s never entirely voluntary, I think,” she said. When police use search warrants to obtain footage, they are limited to a narrow window of pertinent information as it relates to a specific case, she said. Without a warrant, “what else are police gaining?” she asked.

A lot of home cameras look down on driveways and onto the road beside the driveway, Guinard said. The footage the police would ask for would be footage of those public areas, “nothing into your neighbor’s home,” he said, and using that footage would not constitute an invasion of privacy in a private place as defined by law.

The initiative, which was posted on the Peterborough Police Association’s Facebook page on April 1, was inspired by the recent burglary at Hobbs Jewelers, Guinard said. Police received a lot of help in the investigation from some of the surrounding businesses and a resident, he said. The two men who committed the burglary had not yet been identified, he said, but the case is still under investigation.

“Every instance we’ve had with the police, it’s been strictly a matter of trying to help them solve a problem,” Depot Square businessman Cy Gregg said. He allowed the police to review the Depot Square security camera footage following the Hobbs Jewelers burglary. “Whenever we’ve had a problem down here, we’ve been quite willing to have the police come in and take a look at it,” he said, and that he’d be happy to let the police know about the camera associated with the condominium complex he manages downtown, although, he said, they probably already know it’s there.

“Anytime we see something like this,” Hruska said, the ACLU asks, “Where are we heading with this?” Regardless of what boundaries the police set with the video footage they request, she said the general issue of private information being held by third party companies is a hot issue for the advocacy group right now.

“How much control does someone have over information held by a third party?...There’s not a go-to answer right now to that question,” she said, whether it pertains to personal information collected by a home security system like Ring, smart speakers, or even DNA data sent to companies like 23andMe.

New Hampshire voters and legislature appear supportive of protecting informational privacy with modern technologies, she said, citing voters’ landslide approval of the 2018 Right to Live Free from Governmental Intrusion in Private and Personal Information Amendment, which added to the state constitution that “an individual's right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.”

Any resident interested in notifying police about their surveillance system is directed to contact Peterborough Master Patrolman Christopher Martin at cmartin@peterboroughnh.gov.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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