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 Committee Report

Committee Report #3


In City Council October 15, 2012

Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Chair  
Vice Mayor E. Denise Simmons  
Councillor Timothy J. Toomey  

The Public Safety Committee held a public meeting on Monday, August 13, 2012 beginning at 5:30 P.M. in the Sullivan Chamber.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss security cameras.

Present at the meeting were Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Committee, Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Vice Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Councillor Minka vanBeuzekom, Matt Nelson, Chief of Staff for Mayor Henrietta Davis, Councillor Leland Cheung, Deputy City Manager Richard Rossi and Interim City Clerk Donna P. Lopez. 

Also present were Christian Lanphere, Emergency Manager, Cambridge Health Alliance, David DiNapoli, Chief of Security, Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), Lieutenant Jim Jones, State Police, John DiFava, Chief of Police, MIT, Kade Crockford, ACLU, Alex Jablokov, 16 Kassul Park, James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place and Joe Gilson, Councillor vanBeuzekom's father.

Councillor Kelley convened the meeting and explained the purpose. This discussion on security cameras is occurring because the City received money from the Homeland Security and put up cameras that have never been used.  Subsequently the City had the opportunity to set up a test of cameras along Rindge Avenue where areas of public safety concern might be covered but there was no clear thought that these cameras would be a good idea.   Currently there is no policy on security cameras and whether or not they are linked to each other or to some central data gathering and monitoring system.  The City Manager needs guidance from the City Council on security cameras.  This may be the first step to formalizing a policy on security cameras.

Vice Mayor Simmons asked about cameras in the public way versus cameras in the private way, like traffic lights etc.  This was brought up years ago and she was opposed to using public funds for cameras on the public way.  There are people who support security cameras as a means of preventing crime.  She is not sure she wants cameras on the public way but is interested in the discussion.

Chief DiFava explained what MIT's cameras are used for.  There are 26 exterior cameras that are located on the campus; 10 have the ability to look at a public way as they can tilt, pan zoom, etc.  They could have more internal cameras but folks do not like them there either.   Cameras can only record video.  It is against the law to record audio without two party consent.  Cameras are used for security at places like their gas storage area or high vandalism areas like their bus monitor.  If not affirmatively protected, data is recorded after 14 days.  A bike accident was recorded by an MIT camera near Kresege Center.  Building 15, Green Building has a camera.  At this location there is expensive weather monitoring equipment.  This camera views Memorial Drive.  Cameras on Ames Street, Wadsworth Street and Massachusetts Avenue record the public way. 

David DiNapoli, Chief of Security, CHA, has cameras at 3 hospital locations and all clinics, some of which catch the public way as they view parking areas, etc.  One camera records Line Street.  The Windsor Street Clinic also has a camera that records the public way.  Data is kept for 30 days.  Data is only released for evidentiary evidence.  The CHA has signs posted stating that the CHA has cameras, but they are not monitored.

Lieutenant Jones stated that there are cameras on the Boston side of the Charles River but not Cambridge.  The state police is interested in having cameras installed on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.  Data is kept 30 days and is rerecorded over.  Videos are date and time stamped.  There are 12 cameras on the Boston side recording the pedestrian bridge.  There is a capability to monitor for himself and 3 other people, but monitoring is not done consistently.  Access authority is only held by 3 persons.  They want to put cameras in crime areas such as along the river.

Vice Mayor Simmons asked if all video cameras are date and time stamped.  Lieutenant Jones responded in the affirmative.  He stated that if cameras were available in Cambridge the state police would be able to monitor Memorial Drive, the entire parkland of the Charles River Reservation and intersections where serious accidents occur, such as Land Boulevard. 

Councillor Kelley asked Mr. Rossi for information on the City security cameras.  Mr. Rossi stated that the cameras were installed, but not hooked up and that CPD and CFD would have camera information.  Councillor Toomey stated that there are certain properties that are a constant nuisance.  These properties deserve extra scrutiny.  The properties that require constant police presence should have security cameras.

Councillor vanBeuzekom inquired if the MBTA was invited to this meeting.  Councillor Kelley responded in the affirmative.  Councillor vanBeuzekom asked if this discussion included red light cameras.  Councillor Kelley stated that red light cameras do not run all the time; they only work when a red light is run.  Surveillance cameras are on all the time.  The DCR, MBTA, CHA and universities all have cameras.  Surveillance cameras are for looking at things, but they are not monitored.  Chief DiFava stated some MIT cameras are monitored, but these cameras are not on the exterior of buildings.

Kade Crockford, UCLA, asked Lieutenant Jones what computer software was used to log on and can any other agency log on.  Lieutenant Jones stated that the system is an internal internet system and no other agency can log on to the system.  The Fusion Center and EOPS can log on, but no outside agency can log on.  Councillor vanBeuzekom asked what a Fusion Center is.  Lieutenant Jones replied that the Fusion Center is an entity at the state police that collects information for homeland security; an intelligent agency collection.

Councillor Kelley asked if the court can force access and discretion.  Lieutenant Jones stated that the state has some discretion but everyone is subject to court orders.  Councillor vanBeuzekom asked if this is the same for the CHA.  Mr. DiNapoli stated that the CHA can be subjected to freedom of information law, but would defer to the lawyers.  Chief DiFava stated that if MIT received a court order the records would be released.  Councillor Toomey asked how long the records are kept.  Lieutenant Jones responded that the records are kept for 30 days unless there is an issue, and then the record is pulled.

Councillor Kelley asked if any cameras use facial recognition.  Chief DiFava commented that the camera is the same; it is the software that is different.  Councillor Kelley asked if the collected data from cameras and the software have been used after the fact to see a license plate number.  Lieutenant Jones stated that police cruisers have cameras that record license plates for stolen cars, outstanding warrants, etc.  They can run about 2000 plates an hour.  Councillor Kelley commented that the fact that cruisers are recording plates is significant.  Lieutenant Jones stated that this data is collected on all vehicles.  Ms. Crockford stated that the ACLU has been working on this issue were plates are recorded.  The information on every single driver is stored for a long time.  This ACLU is concerned about this issue.  Some municipalities also have license plate cameras on cruisers.  This plan collects the information from other agencies and sends it to the state police.  It marks time, date and location.  With this information the police will be able to go back and track the whereabouts of a person, or at least a person's car, without a warrant. 

Mr. Jablokav stated that he wants decisions to be made openly and the public to be aware of the decisions.

Councillor Toomey stated that he favors placing security cameras on City property that abuts housing.  The phone company records where we are and this is never addressed.  He is more concerned with a private entity collecting this information.   Councillor Kelley stated that the City Council needs to state their opinion on security cameras and this may be uncomfortable for some.

Councillor Cheung stated that he thought this was an issue for the City Council to discuss fact finding on cameras and have a policy discussion on the City Council floor.  Councillor Kelley stated that the City Manager was put in an unfair position on security cameras.

Councillor vanBeuzekom asked the agencies to explain if the security cameras have been helpful and to state the breaches.  Councillor Kelley asked if the state has a position on cameras or what does law enforcement use the security cameras for.  Lieutenant Jones commented that security cameras are used as a deterrent and if a crime is committed as a tool to view the incident.  He explained that the data shows that robbers attack their victims away from where the cameras are located so security cameras along State property may push crime to properties without cameras but not actually stop it.  Outside his jurisdiction he gets information from cameras to be on the lookout for perpetrators and this provides information for follow-up investigations.  Similarly, State Police cameras provide pictorial information to local jurisdictions who often recognize people.

Mr. Lanphere spoke about the recent incident in California where a child was being kidnapped from a hospital.  The hospital followed policy and the security personnel started looking at the film and the perpetrator was caught at the door.  This is a huge benefit for hospitals.

Chief DiFava stated that cameras have saved money from vandalism, skate boarding, etc.  Cameras were used to reconstruct accidents. Lieutenant Jones added that since the cameras were installed on the Boston side of the Esplanade, sexual assaults have been reduced.  Sexual predators are identified on film.  Mr. Rossi stated that in general there are a lot of cameras around that the general public is not aware of.  The City is limited to see what is on the public way and accessing information from privately mounted cameras.  Public property has tight restrictions.  What is the criterion to use security cameras and for what crimes.  The Council could set policy on that. We are interested in the safety of the public.  Lieutenant Jones added that all in this room is capable of recording anything with the use of their cell phone.  The public posts all sorts of crime in process videos.  Joe Gilson asked if Boston has criteria for their cameras.  Councillor vanBeuzekom stated that phones are private entities but the issue of cameras as a deterrent is different as robbers know where the cameras are.  Chief DiFava stated that cameras are not everywhere but are one tool in multiple layers of crime prevention.  Mr. Rossi said that the Police and Fire Departments would like security cameras installed.

Councillor Kelley asked what are the down side and the concerns for using public property for public cameras.  Lieutenant Jones listed property damage; cameras and where they are located can be damaged.  Ms. Crockford spoke about her concerns around privacy and surveillance and transparency.  Homeland security has given money to cities for surveillance and this has occurred without transparency and public dialogue.  There is a balance.  Cameras push crime away sometimes - do we want cameras everywhere to deter crime.  Who has access, how long is information retained, is information shared with the Boston Regional Intelligent Center, and is there accountability and transparency around use built in, what kind of physical capabilities such as zooming and color and panning do cameras have and what about integration of new technologies.  She stated that integrated technology and face recognition technology is dangerous.  If there is face recognition technology built in the City needs to establish strict guidelines and ensure that it is not used improperly.  Perhaps warrants to guard against personal use or abuse.

Councillor Kelley added that how to use this information is why guidelines are necessary.

James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, spoke of an incident where there was a murder in Cambridge.  The family has expressed concern about the unwillingness of police to provide information from the surveillance cameras that are in place.  Family members of victims would like access to this information.  He asked about the DCR cameras installed at the McCrehan pool and if the state police have access to these cameras.  Lieutenant Jones informed the committee that this is a separate system.  The state police would have to get access from the DCR. 

Councillor Kelley commented on the problematic issue of camera access and when is it appropriate to use the cameras. 

Councillor vanBeuzekom asked Mr. Rossi if the City would be required to share information, if recorded, with the Urban Area Collaborative.  Mr. Rossi stated that Chief Reardon would be the best person to answer this question.  The fear was that cameras on City property would record information that the City was not sure about.  There are 6 cameras on light polls.  Mr. DiNapoli stated these are mechanical devises and they do fail from time to time even with maintenance.  Ms. Crockford also spoke about advanced computer hackers in Cambridge.

Councillor vanBeuzekom stated that three different security cameras were discussed.  Red light cameras - this was taken off the table.  Councillor Kelley commented that there have been meetings held on red light cameras; however a follow-up meeting could be held.  Councillor vanBeuzekom stated that perhaps there could be security cameras at hot spots to deter crime - access and share issues are different than homeland security cameras where pointed to a road for emergency situation.  The privacy issues for the cameras are different.  These cameras may not have the capability to capture license plate numbers depending on resolution and placement.  She would like 3 different types of discussions on the different use of cameras. 

James Williamson suggested that it would be useful to get hackers from MIT to participate in the discussions. He noted that a person walking around with a camera on his head freaked people out.  He stated his concern about people who experienced crime and if there were surveillance cameras if the information could be shared.  CHA has tons of cameras.  People do not commit crime in Jefferson Park because of the cameras - they go across the street.  However, people who are surrounded by surveillance cameras feel they have no privacy.  He spoke about cameras recording people stealing from coin machines in a court house. The ACLU asked good questions. The scope of criminal behavior is big.  He worried about a loss of focus, about personal interactions about cameras.

Ms. Crockford spoke about the different types of cameras - license plate (optical recognition camera) cameras take pictures and are different from CCTV cameras which are powerful, can zoom a long distance and see clearly.  She suggested looking into what kind of cameras they are.  Homeland Security cameras are very powerful.

Councillor Kelley stated there will be additional meetings.  Cambridge needs to figure out what tools we either want or do not want regarding security cameras.  He is having difficulty telling people that cameras cannot record a hot spot.  The next meeting will be on the legality issue.

Councillor Kelley thanked all those present for their attendance.

The meeting adjourned at 6:56 P.M.

For the Committee,

Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair
Public Safety Committee


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