Make Bibb stores buy security cameras, Allen says

Security cameras helped lead sheriff’s investigators to a quick arrest after last Friday’s convenience store slaying in Bibb County. Now Commissioner Joe Allen says the county needs to force stores to buy cameras to help solve and deter more crimes.

Under Allen’s proposal, a slew of businesses — motels, movie theaters, liquor stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and others — would need cameras that could identify criminals and their cars. Allen also wants signs conveying a message: “You’re being watched. You don’t know where the cameras are. You can be seen.”

County commissioners are scheduled to discuss Allen’s proposal Tuesday. Allen said he didn’t know how many businesses would need to buy cameras or what they would cost.

Allen said he’d also want cameras on some busy county streets, where they could catch images of brawls or criminals fleeing crime scenes.

“You might hear somebody say ‘This is Big Brother stepping up to the plate.’ But, yeah, somebody’s got to step up to the plate and protect the citizens of Bibb County,” he said.

By requiring cameras outside and around many types of businesses,

Allen’s proposal would go well beyond some other Middle Georgia communities. A 2004 survey by The Telegraph showed Warner Robins required security cameras in convenience stores and Fort Valley required them in convenience stores and liquor stores.

For the past two decades or so, Macon has also required security cameras in stores that don’t have two working clerks but sell alcohol after 9 p.m., said Ed DeFore, a 38-year veteran of the City Council who helped pass that ordinance.

“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” DeFore said. “We caught a lot of people that way.”

Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said he hasn’t decided to support or oppose Allen’s draft ordinance. The county attorney is checking on legal options, and Hart said he wants to consider costs to businesses and figure out where cameras make the most sense.

“I’m not leaning either way just now. I’m in support of making sure our businesses are made as safe as possible,” he said.

In pushing for the cameras, Allen cited a recent brawl of teens at the AmStar movie theater, and two slayings at convenience stores in Macon and Bibb County in just the past few weeks.

“How much is a life worth? That’s the bottom line. This is going to cost some money,” he said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.