Surveillance camera plan scrapped

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(Host) Police in Bellows Falls will not be installing cameras in key locations around the village.

The federal grant that would have paid for the controversial surveillance system will be redirected, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) Bellows Falls police chief Keith Clark saw it as a way to cut crime without having to add more police officers.

But many local citizens objected to the thought of cameras monitoring activities, especially in the village.

It didn’t help that the federal grant came though just as allegations of domestic spying were making national headlines.

Louise Light is a Bellows Falls Trustee.

(Light) “I kept asking myself, why is the federal government eager to give our small town of thirty-five to thirty-six hundred people $100,000 to mount twelve to fifteen surveillance cameras? It doesn’t make sense. And then when we saw this play out in our newspapers it was clear to me that this could be part of a much bigger networking of cameras all over this country. And I protest.”

(Keese) At A heavily attended hearing two weeks ago, many residents voiced similar concerns.

The Trustees went into this week’s meeting expecting to set a date for a referendum on the issue.

But when police chief Clark said the grant could probably be rewritten to pay for a new digital police radio system, the trustees opted for the alternative.

Clark says the grants, offered by the Department of Justice, encourage small departments to use technology for more efficient policing.

(Clark) “It wasn’t that the Feds came to me and said, Here’s a $100,000. Put in a surveillance system.’ They said, Here’s some money available, how do you think you can make the best use of it?'”

Clark says he still thinks the security system would have been a useful tool. He hopes the village will revisit the idea in the future.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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