A new ordinance went into effect in Houston, Texas in July 2022, which looks to leverage technology and require certain businesses to install surveillance cameras at their own cost and turn footage over to the police on demand without a warrant. The ordinance specifically requires bars, nightclubs, convenience stores, sexually oriented businesses, and game rooms to install surveillance cameras, with accompanying lighting at all places where customers are permitted, keep the cameras running at all times, even when the business is closed, and store the footage for at least thirty days, all at the expense of the business owners. The ordinance looks to use the video camera footage to help law enforcement in identifying and apprehending persons alleged to have committed violent crimes which have been on the rise in Houston in recent years. Advocates say that the requirements imposed by the ordinance are reasonable safety measures which will help to deter crime in the city. Critics of the ordinance argue that this is an Orwellian measure which unfairly targets certain businesses and forces small business owners to bear the cost of these measures. The requirement of the ordinance to turn over video surveillance footage to law enforcement on demand without a warrant, calls in to question several issues around the Fourth Amendment, privacy, and property rights. This note will explore the background of the ordinance, who the ordinance impacts, and potential legal questions the ordinance raises.
Houston Security Camera Ordinance: Reasonable Safety Measure or Orwellian Surveillance,
SMU Sci. & Tech. L. Rev.