At its September 17, 2015 meeting, the State Records Committee approved changes to state, county and municipal Records Retention Schedules requiring routine video surveillance recordings to be retained for a period of thirty days. The requirement covers “real-time footage of buildings, grounds, and physical properties that are owned or controlled via leases or other contractual arrangements by the” government agency. The thirty-day period is extended, however, if an incident, such as a slip and fall, motor vehicle accident or crime, is captured on the footage. In such a case, the agency must defer to appropriate law enforcement record retention schedules.
I became interested in this issue after Washington Township (Gloucester County) Clerk Jill McCrea denied my request for surveillance recordings because the Township’s cameras automatically re-recorded and thus overwrote videos every seven days. When I questioned Gloucester County Municipal Clerks Association President Patricia A. Frontino about the propriety of such a short period of video retention, she wrote in an April 21, 2015 e-mail: “As you already know, the State Records Council [sic] has no requirement for the amount of time a video surveillance recording is to be retained. Therefore, each municipality is left to establish their own time.”
Not satisfied with Frontino’s response, I reached out to John Mitch who is president of the Municipal Clerks’ Association of New Jersey. Mr. Mitch informed me that the State Records Committee was actively considering a thirty-day retention period.
According to the State Records Committee minutes, the New Jersey Department of Transportation tried to get a waiver from the thirty-day requirement based on its belief that its current video equipment lacked “the capacity to store images beyond 7 days.” The waiver request was denied and Records Committee member Joseph Klett, who serves as Chief of State Archives, remarked that granting this waiver would undermine the whole schedule.