The Baltimore Sun reports that a bar will have camera surveillance equipment feeding live images to police inside the establishment. Shirley’s Honey Hole agreed to the surveillance “as part of a settlement to keep police from padlocking her establishment as a “public nuisance” linked to drug dealing and violence.”
The more than 450 cameras proliferating in Baltimore watch over public spaces, though many private institutions – including some colleges – allow city police access to their video connections. But placing a live camera feed inside a private business is a first for the city, an isolated but unprecedented expansion of an already elaborate system by which police keep watch over the citizenry.
Private companies, such as supermarkets, banks or bars, have the right to choose their security programs. If individuals disagree with the security systems, then they can avoid the businesses. However, I’m disturbed by the fact that the police will now have a live feed into a private business. The owner consented, but only as part of a plea deal. Could this portend a trend of government agencies requiring private companies to link up with government systems?
A number of cities have passed laws requiring the installation of camera surveillance systems, but those cameras are set up outside of businesses and are not linked to a police system. For example, New York City passed a law in 2007 stating “no one shall operate a cabaret or public dance hall unless all entrances and exits used by patrons are equipped with digital video surveillance cameras.” The footage is required to be held for 30 days “so that they may be made available” to the police if there is a criminal or civil investigation, but the cameras do not feed into police systems.
I believe that the only place with a requirement for private cameras to be linked to police systems is also in Maryland. (If you know of any other cities, please leave a comment.) A couple of years ago, Aberdeen, Maryland, passed a law that empowered the police and city government to require new “residential, commercial or industrial development[s]” to install CCTV systems before the development is issued a building permit. These cameras would be connected to a police watch room.