Policy Change: City Considers New Business Surveillance Camera Ordinance

by Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Police want some changes made to the city's business surveillance cameras ordinance.

Right now, officers believe there are some issues with the law in terms of requirements and enforcement.

The city passed it in the early 90s, requiring only a few types of businesses to have the cameras. Currently, there are no penalties for businesses that violate the law.

Investigators say they often struggle with poor quality video or images they can't enhance. Sometimes that stops an investigation in its tracks.

The police department has been working on a new ordinance that could impact hundreds of businesses to address the shortfalls in current city code.

Larry Pence has a good reason for getting a video surveillance system in his business about a year ago. He has several cases filled with valuable collector coins at his business: Liberty Safes, Coins and Ammo.

He has a handful of security cameras, both inside and outside his shop.

"I am only one person here so if we get seven, eight, nine people in the store at a time, I need to make sure everything is covered. And I have a big monitor sitting up there with all of the cameras," Pence said.

Coin dealers are one type of business listed in the new ordinance. Firearms dealers, pharmacies, mobile communications retailers, pawn brokers, banks, credit unions and scrap metal dealers could also be required to have a video surveillance system.

"We looked at crime data, what businesses were frequently targeted for certain crimes, and through our experience, talking to officers and investigators -- which businesses typically do we have video evidence at or could use to help prosecute a crime," said CRPD Lt. Anthony Robinson.

Lt. Robinson helped draft the ordinance after researching policies of other cities. Council members on the City Council Public Safety & Youth Services Committee asked questions as he presented the ordinance Monday afternoon. Members noted it was time for an update because the current ordinance refers to outdated technology such as video tape, while the new one establishes technological standards.

"It also specifies how many frames per second it needs to record. We want 15 frames per second. So, it's a little more live motion," Lt. Robinson said.

The ordinance also requires the cameras to be on 24/7, provides guidelines for camera locations and sets up penalties for noncompliance, including fines.

"We'll do a survey with the police department and will sign off on the system and then afterwards we could do spot inspections," Lt. Robinson said.

Police said this ordinance would help deter crime and keep people safe.

David Ruble, who sells guns at 2nd Amendment Company, isn't convinced these changes are a good idea.

"I think someone in my position has a bit of a responsibility to the police department to help them in those situations, but I think that requiring a certain specific system may be taking it a little bit too far on the government side," Ruble said.

Next, the ordinance goes to the city council for discussion. Lt. Robinson said if this moves forward, the city will start working on plans to notify companies impacted by the changes.
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