Sharon Selectboard considers security cameras on town property

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, March 22, 2019

SHARON — The Sharon Selectboard is not in favor of installing security cameras on the town offices off Route 132 for the purpose of surveilling what goes on at the park and ride across the street, a board member said this week.

But the board will continue to explore installing cameras on town buildings for the purpose of increasing security on those properties, Selectman Kevin Gish said following Monday’s Selectboard meeting where officials discussed the matter.

“It’s not the town’s business to monitor what’s going on at the park-and-ride,” Gish said of a proposal that surfaced at Town Meeting earlier this month. “I don’t see that as the role of the town.”

Dana Colson, the father of Austin Colson, the South Royalton teen who disappeared last year and was found shot and killed months later, raised the idea at the annual meeting in part because he thinks having cameras monitoring the area surrounding the park-and-ride could have helped police investigating his son’s case. There currently are no security cameras at the Sharon park-and-ride, which is next to the Exit 2 interchange with Interstate 89.

No one has been charged in connection with Austin Colson’s death, but Dana Colson believes his son and his killer drove by the park-and-ride on the day he disappeared in January 2018. Colson proposed appropriating money at Town Meeting to purchase cameras for the town offices to point at the park-and-ride, but the amendment failed. At Town Meeting, several residents favored Colson’s proposal.

“I hope they reconsider. Cameras make great evidence,” Colson said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “It’s too late to help Austin, but how many future cases are going to come up where this could make the difference between getting a major criminal off the street or not?”

Gish, the Sharon Selectboard member, expressed concerns about having town staff monitor security footage of things that go on at the state-owned park-and-ride. The board also raised privacy and legal concerns, he said.

“Obviously we care about what’s going on over there. If bad things are happening, we would like them to go away,” he said. “(But) it’s a slippery slope to go down to monitor things like that.”

The town plans to contact its insurance carrier, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, to see if there are any concerns or recommendations with installing the devices on town buildings to monitor town spaces. Years ago, Sharon installed security cameras at the town garage, according to Monday’s meeting minutes.

A town official also plans to reach out to law enforcement and the Vermont Agency of Transportation regarding surveillance at the park-and-ride, the minutes show.

Sharon resident Steven Picken Jr., who works at the Sharon Trading Post at the corner of Route 132 and Route 14, said installing cameras is a good idea and even could have helped capture whoever burglarized the store recently.

“It’s not the small town it used to be,” Picken said at the store on Thursday. “Times are changing.”

Perhaps installing cameras could work as a general deterrent for people thinking about committing crimes in the area, he added.

Resident Jim Peavey also liked the idea of added surveillance. He doesn’t think privacy concerns should prevail.

“It’s not like you are monitoring someone’s house,” Peavey said. “If they make people feel safer, it can’t be a bad thing.”

Meanwhile, The Sharon Academy has expressed interest in installing security cameras on the Old School House building off Route 132, which is directly across the street from the park-and-ride, according to the town minutes.

Colson said he plans to talk to police detectives to see if they can attend a Selectboard meeting and attest to how security cameras pointing at the park-and-ride could be beneficial in future criminal cases. Colson also raised concerns about “drug transactions” occurring at the park-and-ride.

Vermont State Police troopers this week couldn’t quickly and definitively say the park-and-ride was a hot spot for drug dealing, but at a Vermont State Police meeting on Thursday at the Tunbridge Central School, a trooper suggested that it does happen and perhaps frequently.

“There is a possibility there is drug dealing at that park-and-ride right now,” Trooper Jeremy Lyon said at the meeting.

The Sharon Selectboard plans to discuss the topic of security cameras at future meetings.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.