The city’s police force is pushing to upgrade outdated city rules for security cameras in convenience stores. A proposed ordinance change is designed to put more eyes on businesses that tend to attract criminal elements while improving the quality of images.
“Our current surveillance camera ordinance for convenience stores was established back in 1993,” said Lt. Greg Fangman. “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 work session last week and hopes it will be ready for a vote at an upcoming meeting. 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The proposal removes references to outdated technology and will allow the council in the future to set minimum standards for video surveillance systems by a simple resolution based on input from the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. “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. More notably, it would also expand the types of businesses required to maintain video surveillance system.
While the current ordinance essentially requires 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 second-hand 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 ordinance is being designed to allow businesses which recently purchased new surveillance systems not meeting the standards to be “grandfathered” in. But the goal would have all of the systems up to standard within three or four years.
Fangman said the cameras are vital to helping solve crimes but also serve as a deterrent when criminals know they’re being watched.
“In terms of criminal investigations these cameras have aided us in resolving crimes from murders all the way down to shoplifting cases,” he said. “Of course, cameras don’t solve everything.”
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Waterloo city reporter for the Courier