Around New England

Surveillance Cameras Going Forward, Despite State Law Limiting Surveillance

August 16, 2019

A judge is refusing to issue a preliminary injunction that would block installation of three police surveillance cameras in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, but is allowing a lawsuit challenging the cameras to go forward.

The cameras are designed to provide a live feed to police of areas of Elm Street, which is the major street of Manchester, which is New Hampshire’s largest city.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is challenging the legality of the cameras.

New Hampshire has a civil-libertarian state statute that limits surveillance.

New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, Chapter 236, Section 130 states in part:

 

I.  In this subdivision, “surveillance” means the act of 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 or other imaging device or any other device, including but not limited to a transponder, cellular telephone, global positioning satellite, or radio frequency identification device, that by itself or in conjunction with other devices or information can be used to determine the ownership of a motor vehicle or the identity of a motor vehicle’ s occupants.
II.  Neither the state of New Hampshire nor its political subdivisions shall engage in surveillance on any public ways of the state or its political subdivisions.

 

The law, passed in 2006, allows government video cameras where specifically allowed by state statute; “on a case-by-case basis in the investigation of a particular violation, misdemeanor, or felony”; or for traffic monitoring and tolls on state highways.

The statute makes violating the law a crime.

Judge Tina L. Nadeau allowed two property owners in Manchester to continue in their lawsuit against the cameras in Hillsborough Superior Court Northern District, saying they have standing to challenge the legality of spending about $15,000 in city funds on the cameras, according to The Union Leader.

The judge’s ruling is dated Monday, August 12.

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