2/11/2008West Virginia: Bill Turns Traffic Cameras into Spy Cameras
West Virginia state House approved legislation transforming freeway congestion monitoring cameras into a statewide surveillance network.
Cameras once proposed solely for the purpose of monitoring the level of traffic on freeways may soon have a new mission in West Virginia following unanimous state House passage of the "Guardian Angel Video Monitoring Act" last Wednesday. Introduced by state House Majority Leader Joe DeLong (D), the bill authorizes the state's secretary of military affairs and public safety to take control of video recording devices whenever an Amber Alert is declared. These alerts were originally designed to enlist the help of the public in finding vehicles bearing the license plate of a suspected child kidnapper.
"Tools allowing rapid response and identification of the movements of persons suspected in a child abduction require the use all forms of developing technologies to assist law enforcement in rapid response to these alerts," the legislation states. "The use of traffic video recording and monitoring devices for the purpose of surveillance of a suspect vehicle adds yet another set of eyes to assist law enforcement."
The text of the HB 4075 requires that state police and transportation officials use "all available video recording and monitoring devices" to track motorists during an alert. It requires "at a minimum" that all state and local governments coordinate their equipment under a state-controlled surveillance program. It also authorizes negotiations with neighboring states to expand the program's reach. If approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor, an action plan would be developed by December that would describe the cost of the new equipment required. Federal funds are already being used to deploy a set of high-resolution cameras throughout the state's freeway network.
Despite its endorsement of spy cameras, the West Virginia legislature voted in 2006 to ban both red light cameras and speed cameras.
West Virginia Legislature, 2008 Session
H. B. 4075
(By Delegates DeLong, Caputo, Fragale, Webster, White, Kominar and Shook)
[Introduced January 17, 2008; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact Section 15-3A-2 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend said code by adding thereto a new section, designated Section 15-3A-7, all relating to use of video image recording devices in an Amber Alert activation; providing for video image monitoring during Amber Alert activations; and, directing the Secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety to develop a plan to implement a video monitoring system during Amber Alerts.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That Section 15-3A-2 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted; and that said code be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated Section 15-3A-7, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 3A. Amber Alert Plan.
Section 15-3A-2. Findings and determinations relative to "Amber's Plan".
(a) The Legislature finds and determines that:
(1) Public alerts can be one of the most effective tools in combating child abductions;
(2) Law-enforcement officers and other professionals specializing in the field of abducted and missing children agree that the most critical moments in the search for an abducted child are the first few hours immediately following the abduction, asserting that if a child is not found within two to four hours, it is unlikely that child will be found alive;
(3) The rapid dissemination of information, including a description of the abducted child, details of the abduction, abductor and vehicle involved, to the citizens of the affected community and region is, therefore, critical;
(4) Alerted to an abduction, the citizenry become an extensive network of eyes and ears serving to assist law enforcement in quickly locating and safely recovering the child; and
(5) The most effective method of immediately notifying the public of a child abduction is through the broadcast media; and
(6) That in addition to public alerts, other tools allowing rapid response and identification of the movements of persons suspected in a child abduction require the use all forms of developing technologies to assist law enforcement in rapid response to these alerts and is an additional tool for assuring the well being and safety of our children. Thus, the use of traffic video recording and monitoring devices for the purpose of surveillance of a suspect vehicle adds yet another set of eyes to assist law
enforcement and aid in the safe recovery of the child.
(b) The Legislature declares that given the successes other states and regions have experienced in using broadcast media alerts to quickly locate and safely recover abducted children, and, with the recent development of highway video recording and monitoring systems, it is altogether fitting and proper, and within the public interest, to establish these programs for West Virginia.
Section 15-3A-7. Providing for the use of video image recording devices for search purposes during an Amber Alert Activation.
(a) The State Police and the division of highways shall coordinate a process to utilize all available video recording and monitoring devices for the purpose of monitoring Amber Alert suspect vehicles. This program shall be called the "Guardian Angel Video Monitoring" Program.
(b) The secretary of military affairs and public safety shall also develop a plan to provide for the State Police to monitor and utilize video recording and monitoring devices during an Amber Alert. This "Guardian Angel Video Monitoring" implementation plan shall include at a minimum, the following:
(1) Utilization of any state or local video recording and monitoring devices upon agreement with the department, agency or political subdivision in control of the video recording device; and,
(2) Development of policies and initiatives relating to facilitating sharing of information with neighboring states wherein suspect vehicles in Amber Alerts may be crossing state lines.
(c) The secretary shall submit the plan to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance no later than December 1, 2008. The plan shall include an analysis of all related costs for equipping and using a statewide video recording and monitoring system during the duration of an Amber Alert and recommendations for any additional legislation or actions necessary to further facilitate the implementation of the "Guardian Angel Video Monitoring" program.