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Few Obey Cedar Rapids Law Requiring Security Cameras, Difficult to Enforce

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A man whose daughter was kidnapped while working at a Cedar Rapids convenience store wants city leaders to strengthen an ordinance that requires business owners to have surveillance cameras.

"It was the most devastating thing you could ever think of to hear your daughter is missing," said Mark Daniel, whose daughter, Amanda, was a clerk at the Cedar Rapids Kwik Shop in May 2010 when she was abducted at knife-point by Keith Elson.

Images from a surveillance camera inside the store helped police find Amanda Daniel. She was at Elson's nearby apartment, where he had taken the young woman and raped her.

"Without the cameras, would they have found her in time? I don't know," Mark Daniel said.

In 1993, the Cedar Rapids City Council passed an ordinance requiring all businesses to have security cameras. According to the ordinance, "the surveillance camera shall be positioned so as to record on film or videotape the image of all persons entering the business ... approaching within five feet of the cash register."

However, there are no penalties if a business violates the ordinance.
"I think the ordinance doesn't go far enough," said City Council Member Chuck Swore, a former convenience store owner. "I think we should probably have different options on enforcement and how it can be enforced and what the penalty structure could be and should be."

There's no timetable, however, on revisiting the ordinance.
Swore said some businesses probably haven't installed security cameras because of the expense involved.

"It's certainly something that if they don't have to spend the money they don't want to spend the money," Swore said.

The ordinance directs the city's police chief to inspect and monitor all businesses, which has not happened.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman, who has been in the job for less than a year, said he would designate an officer to check businesses for compliance, "optimally all businesses, the way (the ordinance is) written targets the ones that are open late at night and are more at risk," he said.

Mark Daniel said he welcomes harsher penalties for businesses that don't have security cameras installed. But he also wants a new law that mandates two employees working at all times in 24-hour businesses, as well as a requirement to have a panic button at each checkout counter. Those actions, he said, could help prevent an incident like the one that involved his daughter. But it can't take back what happened to her.

"(Elson) took her innocence. He took her security and that's just not something you can get back," Daniel said. "No matter what the city puts in the ordinance you can't get that back once it's gone."

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