Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

City Council approves security camera ordinance for bars and convenience stores

I have mixed feelings about this.

Houston bars, nightclubs and convenience stores must install security cameras outside of their buildings within 90 days in a citywide surveillance effort Mayor Sylvester Turner hopes will diminish violent crime in high-risk areas.

City Council approved the measure in a 15-1 vote Wednesday after a lengthy discussion on the merits of cameras as a deterrent to robberies, shootings and other criminal activity officials say is concentrated at the nighttime businesses. The ordinance also applies to game rooms and sexually oriented businesses.

The camera requirement is a minor component of the mayor’s One Safe Houston agenda, which will funnel more than $44 million in federal relief funds to mental health and crisis intervention services over the next three years. It passed over objections from the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the plan to fine businesses for failing to turn footage over to the Houston Police Department upon request within 72 hours.

The ordinance, which also requires convenience stores to install enhanced lighting at their entrances, overcame skepticism from council members who worried it would penalize business owners and overburden police. Businesses could face a $500 citation if they fail to provide police with surveillance footage within three days of a crime.


Police Chief Troy Finner thanked the council for passing the camera requirement Wednesday, calling it “a force multiplier” that will help his department solve more crimes.

Finner said his department is crafting protocols to guide its collection of businesses’ video footage following a crime. Police will be required to obtain a warrant in the event a business does not volunteer footage, officials said.

We’ve been talking about security cameras as a crime-fighting tool in Houston for at least 15 years. As of the year 2014, HPD had nearly 1,000 camera feeds available to it, mostly around downtown, stadiums and event spaces like the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Theater District. It’s no unreasonable to think that these have had some effect on crime and crime-solving. Bars, nightclubs, and convenience stores are higher-crime areas in general, so they’re a logical place to want to have security cameras. I’m more or less okay with the concept, though I share the ACLU’s concerns about privacy and transparency; given the track record with police body camera video, who wouldn’t be concerned?

My hesitation here is more prosaic. As noted, we’ve had a ton of these cameras around town for a decade or more. We therefore have a huge amount of data relating to their use and their efficacy. Can HPD provide some evidence to back up the claims that more cameras and/or strategically-placed cameras do in fact have a salutary effect on crime? Like I said, I’m inclined to believe it, but it sure would be nice to have some empirical backing of that belief. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. So please, show us the evidence, HPD. And a year or so after these new cameras have been installed, show us the evidence for their effect, too.

Related Posts:


  1. Greg Shaw says:

    I agree with Kuff:
    If we would just give these violent offenders a hug they would drop their guns and pick guitars to become folk singers (when not working at vegan coffee shops) and spread peace, love, inclusion, diversity and tolerance everywhere.

  2. Frederick says:


    Just so we understand your inane trolling…you are against peace, inclusion, diversity and tolerance…right?

  3. Jules says:

    Greg, can you provide a link to Charles saying that? Because I don’t see it in this post.

  4. C.L. says:

    Here’s a novel idea, Houston City Council – install red light cameras so the City of Houston can send traffic violation notices to the hundreds/thousands of drivers who blatantly and with impunity, run red lights inside the City limits. Now THAT would a ‘force multiplier’.

    Oh wait….

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    C.L. there were red light cameras in the city, but the people voted them out.

  6. Greg Shaw says:

    Wasn’t tolling.
    Just an attempt at satire.

  7. Flypusher says:

    Don’t give up the day job.

  8. Greg Shaw says:

    Humorless puritans

  9. Flypusher says:

    Tell better jokes

  10. C.L. says:


  11. Greg Shaw says:

    Fair enough