Local News

Rocky Mount library says cameras in bathrooms a matter of security

Posted January 7, 2019 6:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2019 7:12 p.m. EST

— Surveillance cameras are so commonplace that people have come to expect being watched in public. But some people say the Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount crossed the line with security cameras in its bathrooms.

A decade ago, the vandalism became so bad in the library's bathrooms that officials said something needed to be done.

"Someone stood on a toilet and kicked another fixture off the wall," Braswell Memorial assistant director Phillip Whitford said Monday. "We began to be worried that, what if someone was having this kind of rage fit and another patron walked in, particularly a child?"

The library, at 727 N. Grace St., installed the cameras near the bathroom ceilings and posted signs outside: "The common areas of this restroom under video surveillance for your protection."

"The cameras do not point at the stalls. They do not point at the urinals. You can't see any reflections in the mirrors in those areas," Whitford said, adding that the cameras are stationary and cannot pan around the bathrooms or zoom in.

The video goes to a digital recorder in a locked room at the library, but it isn't routinely monitored, he said.

"We review it when there's evidence of a problem in one of the restrooms," he said.

But some library patrons have a problem with the cameras.

On a Facebook page called "Fighting Crime News," people have commented, "I feel violated," "Is this for real?" and "This is against the law."

Library visitor Linda Arrington said a camera anywhere in a bathroom crosses a line.

"A camera in the bathroom is still a camera in the bathroom. It's still an invasion of privacy," Arrington said.

Whitford said the library did extensive research and consulted with its attorney before mounting the cameras. The cameras are permitted under state law, and several businesses in the Rocky Mount area have similar camera systems in their bathrooms, he said.

"We had zero incidents in the restrooms," in the two years after the cameras were installed, he said, "whereas the year before that, we had incidents several times a week."

The cameras do have their supporters.

"I would say that the cameras are necessary. for your own protection," library visitor Margaret Cates said.