Clerk’s death brings call for mandatory video surveillance


City-mandated video surveillance? It’s on the table in Pine Bluff, Ark.

In the wake of the unsolved killing of a convenience store clerk, local leaders are considering an ordinance to require convenience stores and restaurants to install and maintain surveillance cameras on their properties, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on Nov. 12.

The move was prompted by the shooting death of Mohammad Islam during an attempted robbery Sept. 25 at the Big Red Food Mart. The shooter has not been apprehended, a situation that police investigators say has not been helped by the fact that security cameras inside the store were not working at the time of the crime.

“What we want to ensure is the safety of people working in these stores,” said Alderman George Stepps, who sponsored the ordinance. “That’s the bottom line here.”

Fines of up to $1,000 could be assessed against storeowners, managers or clerks at properties found in noncompliance. The city’s Fire and Emergency Services Department would inspect properties and ensure that cameras are operational.

According to the Democrat-Gazette, Pine Bluff—population 49,083—could be the first city of its size in the state to have such an ordinance.

Capt. Greg Shapiro of the Pine Bluff Police Department told the newspaper that the department supports the proposal and sees it as a crime deterrent.

“We asked for this piece of legislation following [Islam’s] murder,” Shapiro said. “We don’t want to place a financial burden on any business, but this is 2012, and the technology is available and affordable to protect employees [of these businesses] and help us deter, as well as solve, crimes.”

Keith Jentoft, president of RSI Video Technologies, said the proposed ordinance is a sign of the times: using technology to fight crime instead of throwing declining law enforcement personnel against it.

“What I find fascinating is that the motivation is not to reduce false alarms, but to make arrests,” Jentoft told Security Systems News. He said Pine Bluff’s ordinance and similar legislation can help the alarm industry “upsell an entire community of businesses so that their alarm systems can do a better job of protecting people.”

The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday night postponed a vote on the proposal.



It is tragic that yet another heinous crime has taken the life of Mohammad Islam.

What happened at this convenience store is an example of how technology can assist law enforcement in solving crimes.  What occured here is not about false alarms.  What happened here is not about declining law enforcement resources.  It is unfortunate that an existing but malfunctioning video surveillance system is somehow being linked to false alarms.  One has nothing to do with the other.

Pine Bluff's proposed ordinance to require surveillance systems has the potential to deter criminal activity.  I applaud the police department and the alderman for looking to technology to protect their citizens.  The key item in the proposed ordinance is that the systems will be inspected by the municipality to assure they are functioning.

Today's technology solutions can go a long way in assuring such systems remain functional.   DVR technology that sends "health check" information to a monitoring center can help assure that an on-site DVR is functioning properly.  Cloud based video storgae can go further, by eliminating maintenance downtime for on-site DVR's.

I for one do not find this "fasinating" as our industry has been installing video storage technology in convenience stores for over 20 years, starting with Video Cassette Recorders (VCR.)  Technology has certainly advanced since the VCR days.  What is key here is that the technology be functional when it is needed most.  Today's technology solutions go a long way to that end.