Video Surveillance Ordinance Requires New Bars to Install Camera Systems

City officials in Pekin, Ill., want high resolution video surveillance footage made available to police for investigative purposes.

PEKIN, Ill. – The City Council here has approved changes to the liquor code that forces new bars to install video surveillance systems in order to help police conduct investigations into fights and other activities, the Pekin Daily Times reports.

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The council approved the video surveillance requirement in a 5-2 vote. The ordinance requires that bars have a high-resolution system and that they keep video for a minimum of 30 days, according to the newspaper. The bar owner is required to turn over the video to police upon request. Deputy Chief Don Baxter said that there have been times when police are not called to a bar the night of a fight and by the time someone reported it the video has been taped over.

Mayor Laurie Barra, the city’s liquor commissioner, told the newspaper current license holders are not required to have the surveillance, though she said some bars already have the equipment.

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“It was felt by the liquor commission that making current licensees have to do this would be giving them a bill that they needed to pay that could hurt their bottom line,” said Barra. “So we decided we would go with new licensees and grandfather in the old licensees.”

Mayor-elect John McCabe, the city’s next liquor commissioner, told the newspaper his conversations with police indicate that there are a small number of bars where police are called frequently.

“A lot of these places that we do have higher call loads at, these are also the same places that usually their ownership turns over frequently,” said Baxter.

Councilman John Abel asked about costs to bar owners. Baxter said the cost depends on the quality of the equipment. Barra said she spoke to a few bar owners and the range of their equipment is between $350 at a local bar to $2,000 for an elaborate system at a liquor store.

Councilman Lloyd Orrick asked if other cities have video ordinances. Baxter said there are, but he did not have a list of which ones.

Councilman Tim Golden said, “I think it’s just downright laughable that the city wants to ask a specific group of business owners to provide a fully functioning video camera when we don’t do it here (in city council chambers), or haven’t very recently.” He said if a bar is known for fights, “I probably just wouldn’t go there.”

Councilman Cody Hendricks did not say why he voted no, the newspaper reported.

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