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Petition calls for removal on surveillance cameras

The Concord Journal/Ben Aaronson | January 5 2006

In late November, the School Committee raised more than a few eyebrows by approving a video surveillance policy, allowing the use of surveillance cameras at CCHS and around the district. The policy authorizes school officials at CCHS to install cameras as a means to deter theft and vandalism at the school.

But resident Jim Catterton said Concordians are trading liberty for security in permitting surveillance equipment to be installed in their schools and other town buildings.

"This is a slippery slope, and administrative convenience could easily lead to some unpalatable outcomes," Catterton wrote in a Nov. 24 letter to The Journal.

Catterton has since filed a citizen petition for a warrant article calling for a moratorium on the installation of surveillance cameras by school, regional and town departments until a "satisfactory policy" is approved by Town Meeting. Catterton said he proposed the article because he was disturbed by the lack of public input in creating a surveillance policy for the schools and the town.

"There has been no public discussion of the use of security or surveillance cameras, and I think Town Meeting is the appropriate forum for that discussion," he said.

The warrant article does not propose a new surveillance policy, Catterson explained, but rather it requires that there be some measure of public review prior to such a policy being implemented. If the moratorium is passed, it would not be lifted until a surveillance policy had been approved at a subsequent Town Meeting.

Catterton has also filed a second petition for an article to remove any surveillance equipment from CCHS.

According to the policy adopted by the School Committee on Nov. 22, the use of surveillance cameras is authorized "to ensure the health, welfare and safety of all students, staff and visitors on district property, and to safeguard district facilities and equipment."

But Catterton said he did not believe the decision to install cameras at the high school was warranted.

"I think it was an inappropriate use of those cameras," he said. "The safety and security of the students and staff were not the reasons those [cameras] were put in."

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