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Coastal Communities Roll Out Cameras on the Beach

Your next walk on the beach may be recorded as cameras continue being installed in coastal communities across the state, and while some worry about privacy, other say it is a matter of public safety.

Six new cameras went up in Nahant recently, catching some residents off guard. Nahant Police posted on Facebook to calm concerns, letting the public know the cameras are only used for emergencies, law enforcement issues and natural disasters.

The same cameras have been rolling Hingham for a few months. The Massachusetts Coastal Camera Project is part of a partnership between the Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Harbormasters Association, who helped launch the federally funded project. They hope to get the cameras online across the coastline from Plymouth to the New Hampshire border.

“The system is definitely not to spy on people,” Hingham Harbormaster Ken Corson said. “The purpose here is to keep our harbors safe and keep the port of Boston open to commerce.”

The harbormasters are specifically watching for storm impact, looking for when sea walls fail like some did during the last nor’easters, or like in Hingham, when the ferry terminal first started taking on damage.

In Hingham, the footage can only be accessed at their workstation and the police chief said it can help with rescues too.

“It’s purely a safety issue,” Hingham Police Chief Glenn Olsson said. “It’s not big brother-ish. It’s been invaluable in storms you can actually see what’s going on without sending people in danger.”

“For example, if we have a missing kayaker or someone who is in distress, we’re able to use those cameras to quickly scan areas of the harbor versus getting a boat underway, which we would probably do anyway, but it would take a lot of time,” Corson added.

The cameras do not go up anywhere without city or town approval and there are some that have said no. Some that have voted yes are also looking into putting up signs near the cameras to let the public know they are recording.

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