SMITHFIELD — After five years of living with his neighbor’s security cameras pointing directly toward his home, backyard, and driveway, Michael Erbe and his friend installed a fence measuring nearly 7 feet tall to block the cameras from what he describes as “creepy snooping.”
Erbe lives at 34 Willow Road in Greenville. His neighbor at 32 Willow has multiple motion-detection security cameras installed on the home. One above the car garage points at Erbe’s driveway. Another on the side of 32 Willow points toward the side of Erbe’s house and into the backyard.
From inside the home, Erbe said the camera appears to be pointing directly into the two bedrooms on the side of the house.
“I understand cameras are everywhere these days; 12-year-olds have them. Home is the one place where you should have privacy where you are away from the work and doing what you want to do,” Erbe said.
Residents at 32 Willow Road could not be reached for comment about the cameras.
The fence went up two years ago, and Erbe has two additional plywood pieces measuring about 3 feet long and 10 inches tall attached to the fence near the back pool area to ensure that his nieces and other house guests are not being filmed in their swimsuits while enjoying the pool.
Erbe said people may feel safer swimming in the pool now, but his neighbor is seeking to have Erbe remove the fence. Erbe said he is not budging on the issue until he sees the cameras moved.
“He said I’ll move the camera as soon as you move the barrier,” Erbe said, adding he will not move the barriers until the cameras are no longer facing his bedrooms.
Erbe said there is a simple solution where they could both be happy, but after two years of the fence being up, he does not see it happening.
“He could simply put the camera on the fence facing his yard. It’s as simple as that. Then I won’t feel like I’m being spied on,” he said.
Erbe said he is concerned that images are being recorded and stored online. He said he shouldn’t have that concern living in his home.
“He has no right to take away my privacy,” he said.
Erbe approached the Smithfield Town Council last Tuesday after he said he felt he had no other options. He told the council of how he first asked his neighbor to move the cameras pointed into his driveway.
Erbe said he spoke to the Smithfield Police Department, and was told there are no laws in Smithfield or Rhode Island preventing his neighbor from pointing the camera at his house. There are also no laws preventing him from fencing in his yard, he said.
“My neighbor is taking that privacy away from me,” Erbe said.
Smithfield police said this week they are researching any laws related to the cameras and fence.
Speaking with the Valley Breeze & Observer, Erbe’s brother Raymond said his girlfriend pointed out the camera aimed into his bedroom one night.
“It’s not right. We’re not comfortable. I can’t have her over with that thing up there,” he said.
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