On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) elaborated on the policies and procedures it has in place regarding its security cameras at the newly-renovated Kennedy Plaza transit hub. RIPTA officials said that they are committed to balancing the need to provide sufficient security for the public while also protecting individuals’ privacy.
RIPTA officials stated that they became aware of concerns about the cameras late Monday when the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a public statement questioning whether RIPTA has been forthright in providing information about the cameras at Kennedy Plaza.
“We are committed to being as transparent as possible in the area of security, and to that end we are releasing our policy about how security information is handled by the Authority,” said Barbara Polichetti, Director of Public Affairs for RIPTA, said Tuesday. (Please see attachment.)
RIPTA Chief Executive Officer, Raymond Studley, stated that “people should know that we are tasked with protecting the safety and security of our employees, our passengers and the public at Kennedy Plaza – and we take that job very seriously. The cameras at the plaza are there to serve that purpose only. They are not used to intrude on anyone’s privacy, which RIPTA fully respects. When this issue was brought to our attention by the media, we wanted to address it publicly so the ACLU and the public are aware of our willingness to honor open government.”
Studley noted that RIPTA, which leases the Kennedy Plaza space from the City of Providence, has had cameras at that location for years and that the camera system was updated as part of the recent redesign and upgrade of the downtown transit hub. Signs are posted advising the public that cameras are in use, he said. In planning for the Kennedy Plaza project, RIPTA surveyed several hundred passengers about their priorities for that location and security was cited as a top concern.
Studley also explained that any recordings from the cameras are retained for a limited amount of time (approximately 30 days). The recordings are kept in a secure location, and are encrypted and password protected. RIPTA’s camera policy states that the recordings may only be viewed by the Chief Executive Officer or an appropriate employee who has been approved by the CEO. Studley has given such permission only to RIPTA’s Chief of Security, Jamie Pereira. “He is the only person with access to the recordings,” Studley said.
More than 40,000 people pass through Kennedy Plaza every day. Studley pointed out that in the mass transit industry, the use of security cameras has proven to enhance public safety. In the past, RIPTA has shared footage from its cameras with law enforcement agencies and will continue to do so in an effort to deter crime, he said.