Houston considering surveillance camera ordinance for bars, restaurants to fight crime

Bars and convenience stores could soon be required by the city of Houston to install surveillance cameras and proper lighting outside their business. 

The proposal was recommended by the City Attorney and Police Chief as part of the crime reduction initiative 'One Safe Houston,' launched by Mayor Sylvester Turner in February.

The ordinance discussed at City Council Wednesday would require bars, nightclubs, convenience stores, sexually oriented businesses, and game rooms to install security cameras and proper lighting outside. 

If passed, those businesses would be required to install cameras and proper lighting in front of their premises within 90 days. The businesses would also be required to keep those cameras recording at all times and store that footage for at least a month.


If a crime happens, businesses would also be required to turn over the footage to the Houston Police Department within 72 hours. 

The ordinance also says that lighting must be at least 6-foot candles in brightness and located at all areas where customers are allowed. 

"If we say we’re serious about addressing crime and public safety, then there needs to be a wholistic strategy and it needs to be preventive and not just reacting to it," said Mayor Turner. 

Chris Cusack owns a bar on Washington Ave, formerly known as Liberty Station. 

Since February, the space has been undergoing roughly $300,000 in renovations for the new concept "betelgeuse betelgeuse," which is expected to debut at the end of the month. 

"After the last couple years that we’ve had in the bar and restaurant business, adding another expense to that if you don’t have cameras already and putting more regulation on businesses, doesn’t exactly rub me the right way," said Cusack.  

While the city would require cameras, they wouldn’t be funding the equipment, which can cost hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. It’s money some small businesses just don’t have to spare. 

"I’m not going to vote for it until we either include everyone, or maybe if we want to target specific businesses, give them some incentive to want to voluntarily comply," said Councilmember Mike Knox.  

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Knox believes the proposal unfairly targets certain businesses and questions how the city would enforce the measure. 

"As a former policeman, I know the value of video evidence. Crime is a universal issue and this is something we’re only going to require these types of five businesses to participate in when I think that everyone should be participating in helping resolve the crime problem," Knox said.  

"There’s no mechanism for enforcement, so you won’t have to deal with this until there’s a crime that’s committed in front of your business. And you don’t have video, in which case you’re going to get a citation," Knox continued. 

Houston City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance next week.