HOUSTON — The Houston City Council on Wednesday voted to require certain types of businesses to have outdoor security cameras.
The vote came just days after Houston police arrested a person for an alleged gang-related shooting in the Galleria area. Police said outdoor security cameras played a key role in their investigation.
The new rule requires bars, nightclubs, sexually-oriented businesses, convenience stores and game rooms to install outdoor security cameras.
Under the rule, these types of businesses will be required to provide video surveillance from the building exterior to the property line 24 hours a day. Business owners are also required to hand over footage to HPD within 72 hours of a request.
On top of this, the new rule requires convenience stores to place lighting anywhere customers are allowed.
Not everyone is excited for more cameras to be popping up around the city and one group even thinks the new rule is unconstitutional.
"The city council ignored the law. Their vote demonstrated a willingness to push aside constitutional protections and subject Houstonians to overbroad police searches," said Savannah Kumar, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas. "But a city cannot override the Constitution. We are here to help you protect your rights. If the police come knocking on your door, tell them to get a warrant, whether it’s your home or your business."
City Council member for District J Edward Pollard gave some justification for the new rule.
“We have to find as many deterrents as possible to try to prevent people from committing crime or at least thinking twice about committing crime," Pollard said.
The new rule passed with a vote of 15 to 1, with Council Member Mike Knox being the lone "no" vote.
"Yes, we would like to have lots of cameras. There’s plenty of ways to do this voluntarily, encouraging or incentivizing people to volunteer to do these things," Knox argued.
The ACLU of Texas believes the new policy violates the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it requires businesses to turn over private surveillance footage without a warrant.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city's legal team has vetted the policy to ensure its constitutionality.
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Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said they’ll put out information on a number of their platforms for business owners with questions before the ordinance takes effect in 90 days.
"There’s going to be an educational process too. We want compliance. We don’t want to go out and write a whole lot of tickets unless we have to," Finner said. "It simply helps us solve crimes."
The fine for non-compliance with the rule will be up to $500.