Crime in Houston: The deadline for local businesses to install surveillance cameras is approaching

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A city ordinance requiring certain businesses to install additional security measures at their own expense goes into effect in two weeks.

Beginning July 19, bars and nightclubs, sex-oriented shops, grocery stores and arcades must install outward-facing, high-definition camera surveillance systems.

They must provide a full view of the exterior of their property to the property line, record 24 hours a day, and retain video for a minimum of 30 days.

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

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

Failure to comply can result in an administrative offence.

“Especially in the early stages, a lot depends on the reasons given for noncompliance,” said Houston City Attorney Arturo Michel. “If anyone resists, we will investigate. If someone has tried and there is a mistake or error, then HPD will work with them.”

The Houston Police Department reported responding to 7,201 offenses at convenience stores, 2,946 at bars and nightclubs, and 94 at gambling establishments in 2021.

“Obviously that gives us the potential to hopefully have potential video in violent crimes and then increase the solvability factors to help law enforcement solve a crime and hopefully prevent future violent crimes by offenders where we have video evidence,” HPD Executive Chief said Matt Slinkard.

The Houston City Council passed the ordinance in April by a vote of 15 to 1.

Councilor Mike Knox was the only vote against. At the time, he said he agreed with the ACLU that it was violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

Legal analyst Steve Shellist said he believes the city of Houston has the right to require a company to install cameras and lighting at its own expense.

“They do it all the time,” Shellist said. “They go in and tell companies daily how to build their business to keep up with the code.”

Regarding the handing over of the video to the police, he said part of the ordinance could prove problematic for the city.

“I don’t think the regulation as written is as strict as it can be, so I expect we will see challenges and changes,” Shellist said. “Ultimately, I would see a regulation like this stand up to scrutiny.”

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

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Dais Johnston

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