Deadline nears for Houston businesses to install surveillance cameras

Mycah Hatfield Image
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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A city ordinance requiring certain categories of businesses to install additional safety measures at their own expense goes into effect in two weeks.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A city ordinance that requires certain businesses to install additional safety measures at their own expense will go into effect in two weeks.

Starting July 19, bars and nightclubs, sexually-oriented businesses, convenience stores and game rooms will be required to install outward-facing, high-resolution camera surveillance systems.

They are required to provide an overall view of the exterior of their property, up to the property line, record 24 hours a day, and store video for at least 30 days.

Within 72 hours of a request from the Houston Police Department, the ordinance requires establishments to turn over video that may aid in a criminal investigation.

They also must have lighting that illuminates all areas customers have access to.

Those who are not in compliance may be given a misdemeanor citation.

"A lot of it, particularly at the beginning, will depend on the reasons given for non-compliance," Arturo Michel, attorney for the City of Houston, said. "If someone is defying, it we will pursue it. If someone has tried and there is an error or mistake, then HPD will work with them."

Houston police reported that in 2021, they responded to 7,201 crimes at convenience stores, 2,946 at bars and nightclubs, and 94 at gambling establishments.

"That will obviously give us the potential hopefully when violent crime does occur to have potential video and then increase the solvability factors to help law enforcement solve a crime, and hopefully prevent future violent crimes from offenders where we have video evidence," HPD Executive Chief Matt Slinkard said.

Houston's City Council passed the ordinance with a 15 to 1 vote in April.

Councilmember Mike Knox was the lone vote against it. At the time, he said he was in agreement with the ACLU that it violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Legal analyst, Steve Shellist, said he believes it is within the city of Houston's right to require a business to install cameras and lighting at their own expense.

"They do it all the time," Shellist said. "They go in and tell businesses on a daily basis the way they have to build their business to stay up to code."

As far as turning the video over to police, he said that portion of the ordinance may prove problematic for the city.

"I don't think that the ordinance, as it is written right now, is as tight as it can be, so I expect we will see challenges and modifications," Shellist said. "Ultimately, I would see an ordinance like this withstanding the scrutiny."

HPD is working to educate businesses on the requirements ahead of the July 19 enforcement date.

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