Brattleboro, Vermont police plan cameras downtown

Associated Press

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) -- Police plan to have security cameras installed in a downtown parking lot that is a popular hangout for teenagers.

Authorities say the believe placing the cameras in the Harmony Lot will help to fight drug dealing and vandalism.

Brattleboro Police Chief John Martin said he hopes to use a local law enforcement block grant his department received to place several cameras in the lot. The Brattleboro Select Board is scheduled to review the plan Tuesday night.

Security cameras installed at the nearby Brattleboro Transportation Center two years ago have been successful in solving cases involving drugs, burglary and assault, Martin said.

Harmony Lot - a popular teenage hangout bordered on nearly all sides by commercial buildings in downtown Brattleboro - has been a hot spot for drug dealing, vandalism, fights and car accidents, the police chief said.

''Cameras have been extremely helpful for us in solving crimes,'' Martin said. ''If a crime is reported, we can go back to that time frame and see what happened.''

Nancy Braus, co-owner of Everyone's Books, said vandalism and littering are big problems in Harmony Lot, but she would rather see more police officers on foot patrol than installing security cameras.

''I think they should get off their (duffs) and out of the cars and do some community policing,'' said Braus, whose store has entrances from Elliot Street and Harmony Lot. ''I never see the police patrolling the downtown on foot.''

Greg Worden, owner of Vermont Artisan Designs and vice chairman of the Select Board, said the parking lot frequently is the site of accidents. Altercations between drivers and pedestrians are also a problem, he said, as both try to move through the tight spaces of the lot.

Worden said he was supportive of the use of security cameras and was interested in hearing Martin's proposal Tuesday.

Surveillance technology is becoming increasingly popular with small-town police departments, according to Allen Gilbert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.

But he warned that the technology may not be the best law enforcement technique and residents need to ask what they are giving up in return.

''You're making everyone a suspect,'' Gilbert said. ''It's like having a police officer following you around with a little notebook and pen, regardless if you are innocent or guilty of a crime.''

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