City officials told to drop demands that businesses surveil customers

Officials in Houston are being told by the Institute for Justice that their demands that private companies surveil their customers – and then turn over the recordings whenever police ask for them – are unrealistic.

And illegal.

The institute confirms in a new report that the Houston council recently adopted, 15-1, an ordinance that will go into effect in 90 days.

It requires that businesses install surveillance cameras at their own expense – and then turn over footage when police demand it.

“Any business that does not comply with the ordinance would be subject to fines of $500 per day,” the institute report.

The law technically demands that “bars, nightclubs, convenience stores, sexually oriented businesses, and game rooms” install and maintain cameras with sufficient lighting to see customers wherever they are permitted.

The cameras must operate 24 hours a day and they must store hundreds of hours of footage.

“Upon request from police, businesses will be forced to turn their footage over within three days,” the institute explained.

The plan, however, comes with its own set of constitutional issues, the organization reported.

“In addition to trampling on the Fourth Amendment rights of business owners, Houston’s new law also infringes on property rights. This ordinance unfairly saddles certain businesses with thousands of dollars in new expenses to install high-definition surveillance cameras and to archive their footage so it’s available for police on demand,” explained Jared McClain, a lawyer for the institute.

“The decision of whether or not to install surveillance cameras at a business should be up to the owner, not law enforcement or city officials,” added Erica Smith, a senior attorney for the organization.

The fight has become part of the institute’s Project on the Fourth Amendment, which already has involved several other disputes, including one in Tennessee where authorities allowed wildlife officials to snoop around on private property without a warrant, or permission.

Another fight in Pennsylvania involves authorization for city officials to enter rental properties for inspections – without any consent from the landlord or the tenant.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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Content created by the WND News Center is available for re-publication without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@wndnewscenter.org.