Bibb businesses don't support draft of security camera ordinance

Bibb County commissioners are having a hard time drafting a security camera ordinance that won’t frustrate business owners.

In an hourlong meeting Thursday, just one business owner publicly supported an ordinance revealed at the meeting. The rest of the speakers said it could cost them too much, drive up rent or even unintentionally require cameras at office parks.

“According to this,” said Noah’s Ark pet shop owner Bob Keene, “each business has to cover the parking lot (with cameras), and that’s not right.”

Keene said he could cover the inside of his pet shop with three cameras but would need seven for the entire parking lot of the shopping center — even as the rest of the other store owners had to do the same.

County Attorney Virgil Adams said the draft proposal needs tweaking and that commissioners would take Thursday night’s feedback to fix problems. About 75 people — mostly business owners and county officials — attended the meeting.

The drive to require security cameras inside and outside some businesses was launched after two men were slain at Bibb County convenience stores in recent weeks. Cameras didn’t prevent the crimes, but did lead police to suspects.

The draft code is meant to cover banks, convenience stores, grocery stores, liquor shops and fast-food restaurants, as well as shopping centers of at least four businesses. Cameras would be required on every entrance, including fire exits; on cash registers; and outside on all parking areas.

Commissioner Joe Allen, who has been pushing for the security systems, said motels need to be covered by the code and cameras.

The cameras would have to pass minimum standards to ensure they got clear pictures. Businesses that already have security camera systems would be required to cover the parking lot and all the other areas. County commissioners said they could suspend alcohol or business licenses on stores that didn’t comply.

Sheriff Jerry Modena said at Thursday’s meeting that cameras would help officers catch criminals, preventing other crimes.

Without cameras, “You’ve got to put a gun on and defend yourselves. You don’t want that. We don’t want that,” he said.

The only business owner to publicly support the proposal, Don Bumgardner of Redlight Communications, said he sells surveillance systems and would need to add cameras to some of his businesses. But camera requirements in Nashville, Tenn., have helped cut down on crime, he said.

“A lot of police departments will tell you that’s their No. 1 tool,” Bumgardner said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.