COLLEGE STATION, Texas and WATERLOO, Iowa -- Two municipalities recently made moves to mandate certain security requirements for convenience stores and other small businesses, requiring items such as high-resolution video cameras and limited cash in the store and an alarm system.
Tightening Up in Texas
In College Station, Texas, a recently enacted ordinance requires a surveillance system as well as a limited amount of cash at the register, a working alarm system and height stickers on the door so the height of suspects can be determined. The ordinance was inspired by a 2015 crime at Drew’s Exxon in that city, in which a worker was kidnapped and later died, according to local TV station KBTX. During the hours after the incident, surveillance footage played a role in the investigation.
“It’s extremely unfortunate what happened to one of our employees; if anything came out good out of this, it’s this ordinance,” Mark Conlee, general manager of Drew’s Exxon, told KBTX.
Sgt. Sean Beatty of the College Station Police Department is working to get other stores up to code, knowing surveillance footage can be critical. “Good video is always an aid to an investigation,” Beatty told KBTX.
Surveillance cameras must meet College Station's equipment policy. They have to record in color and high resolution, display the correct date and time, and be able to record clear images in dark or low lighting. Police must also be able to retrieve the footage.
“Some high-resolution cameras will be able to make out license plates, some will not ... but they will be able to make out color, make, model—all that kind of stuff," said Beatty.
College Station police said they would stop by the 40 locations that will have to comply with the ordinance. After an initial assessment, police will work with stores to comply with guidelines in a reasonable amount of time. The registration, inspection and application needed for compliance is free. Stores do have to spend money if their present equipment does not meet the requirements, the news source reported.
More Cameras in Iowa
Meanwhile, in Waterloo, Iowa, the city’s police force is asking lawmakers to update city rules for security cameras in convenience stores. A proposed ordinance change is designed to improve the quality of video images taken.
“Our current surveillance camera ordinance for convenience stores was established back in 1993,” said Lt. Greg Fangman of the city’s police department. “It refers to VHS tapes a couple times. Obviously the technology has advanced since that time frame.”
Fangman presented the proposed ordinance to the Waterloo City Council during a recent work session and hopes it will be ready for a vote at an upcoming meeting, reported the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. The council meets again June 6, but no agenda has yet been established.
The proposal removes references to outdated technology and will allow the council in the future to set minimum standards for video-surveillance systems by a simple resolution based on input from the police department regarding the latest technology.
“You could spend $20,000 on a system if you really wanted to; that’s not what we’re asking,” Fangman said told the Courier. “This ordinance outlines basic technology requirements that are out there at a reasonable rate.”
A six-camera DVR system, for example, is available locally for less than $1,000, he said. The ordinance would require cameras at entrances and exits, the cash register and the parking lot. It would also expand the types of businesses required to maintain a video-surveillance system. While the current ordinance essentially requires only convenience stores and liquor stores to have cameras, the proposal would add banks and credit unions, carry-out restaurants, coin dealers, payday lenders, firearm dealers, hotels, cellular-phone dealers, money transmission services, pawn brokers, pharmacies, scrap-metal dealers and secondhand-goods dealers.
“Most of these businesses spelled out here already to have cameras in some form,” Fangman said. “Most of these businesses already far exceed the minimum technology standards we are proposing also.”
The Waterloo ordinance is being designed to allow businesses that recently purchased new surveillance systems not meeting the standards to be “grandfathered” in. But the goal is to have all of the systems up to standard within three or four years.
“In terms of criminal investigations, these cameras have aided us in resolving crimes from murders all the way down to shoplifting cases,” Fangman said. “Of course, cameras don’t solve everything.”