“Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” The catchphrase for that old TV show might be apropos for village miscreants in a few weeks. The Saugerties Village Board is seriously looking into installing surveillance cameras on Main and Partition streets.
“Our intent is not to spy on people,” said Mayor William Murphy, hoping to diffuse public outcry of “big brother’s watching” which happened two years ago when the idea was last raised.
At that time, the Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce came to the board with a request for the cameras. They would act as a deterrent to crime and would provide a valuable record of crimes that did occur. The chamber even volunteered to kick in some dough to help purchase the cameras.
However, the idea never got past the exploratory phase when it was found to be too costly – more than $64,000 for the cameras. But as with any technology, as time goes by, electronics become cheaper and those same three cameras now only cost $24,000.
For those concerned about being spied upon, Murphy said, “these could be used if crime happens in the village. There would be no one watching 24-hours a day.”
Anything recorded by the cameras is also subject to the Freedom of Information Act and would be available to anyone filing a request to see it, Murphy added.
“These are not going to stop crime,” Murphy said, “but maybe help catch someone committing a crime.”
Similar cameras are already being used in midtown Kingston and in the Town of Ulster. Trustee Terry Parisian, who is general manager of the Hudson Valley Mall, said mall owners are talking to the same company about installing the cameras there.
Murphy said the board has enough money in its budget for one camera — $8,000 — and the company, North Carolina based-company J&M Security Solutions, would be willing to let the village purchase the other two later in the year.
A question about the state public bidding law was raised and trustees said the bid threshold is $20,000, so as the $8,000 surveillance equipment would be less than that amount, they would not have to go to bid.
Murphy said additional funding for the remaining two cameras might come partially from the Chamber of Commerce once they see that the village is making a “good faith effort” to get them.
“Once they see we’re serious about getting them, they might contribute as well,” Murphy said of the chamber.
No final decision was made, as trustees will continue to research the matter, Murphy said.