Houston mandates spying outside bars and other businesses. Officials in Houston, Texas, have voted to require an array of businesses—including bars, convenience stores, and strip clubs—to install surveillance cameras and make footage from them readily available to police. The dystopian move is a transparently unconstitutional attempt by city leaders to circumvent Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
To access video from the cameras, police officers will not need a warrant.
The rules apply to all Houston bars, convenience stores, game rooms, nightclubs, or sexually-oriented businesses.
Owners of these establishments must install (on their own dime) surveillance cameras in outdoor areas “providing video coverage from the exterior of the building to the property line.” Businesses must keep these cameras running 24 hours a day, and store camera footage for at least 30 days.
If surveillance footage is requested by the Houston Police Department, businesses must turn it over within 72 hours. Failure to comply would mean fines of $500 per day.
The Houston City Council approved this privacy-killing measure on Wednesday by a vote of 15–1.
“Their vote demonstrated a willingness to push aside constitutional protections and subject Houstonians to overbroad police searches,” said Savannah Kumar of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. “But a city cannot override the Constitution. We are here to help you protect your rights. If the police come knocking on your door, tell them to get a warrant, whether it’s your home or your business.”
The measure is set to take effect in 90 days.