Roseville considering surveillance requirements for businesses

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 30, 2019

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ROSEVILLE — The Roseville City Council is considering an ordinance to require some businesses to meet standards for camera and surveillance equipment.

The businesses that would be affected by this ordinance would be banks and financial institutions; coin dealers; check cashing businesses; firearms dealers; gas stations; hotels and motels; licensed marijuana growers, distributors or testing facilities; any business that is required to obtain a liquor license by the state of Michigan; communication device dealers; money transmission services; pawnbrokers; pharmacies; scrap metal dealers; and multifamily residences with six or more units.

“The city is looking to adopt a surveillance camera ordinance to help protect residents and citizens,” said Roseville City Attorney Timothy Tomlinson. “It would be another tool for the police to track down perpetrators who may be committing crimes at these locations. We want to make sure we have widespread use of cameras throughout the city. It has been shown to be an effective tool for police departments and prosecutors.”

“It was the result of a very important discussion between myself, the city attorney and the mayor to try and reduce crime,” said Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins. “Anything that serves that goal, we are on board with. We want to be proactive.”

The City Council will discuss the measure at an upcoming special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in the council chambers at City Hall, 29777 Gratiot Ave. The public will get the chance to learn more about the measure and voice opinions on it.

“It would be setting standards of equipment. This means being able to be high-resolution enough to use facial recognition and would also require certain locations to be focused on, specifically places such as where customers are paying for items,” Tomlinson explained. “There’s also a requirement of the business owners to maintain the recordings for a period of at least 30 days. … There are provisions in the measure where businesses can request the Police Department accept other systems if the police chief believes they will provide an adequate amount of coverage equivalent to what the ordinance demands.”

Roseville Police Chief Ryan Monroe said his department fully supports the measure and believes it would make a significant difference in the community.

“Detroit has had great success with their Green Light project,” he said. “We live in a world where people hopefully act a little differently when they see cameras, and we would welcome the ordinance and think it would be a great resource for our community and improve our ability to patrol and prosecute.” 

Many businesses in the area already have surveillance equipment, but city officials said much of it is outdated or of too low quality to be effective.

“Some of our businesses do not have cameras, and many of those who do have older, outdated equipment, so pulling an image off of them is oftentimes not very useful to us,” Monroe said. “When you have good quality video, it can greatly help us identify people and build a stronger case for prosecution.”

Tomlinson acknowledged that this could mean some cost to local businesses, but he said it would ultimately benefit everyone, including the business owners.

“There may be some costs to businesses, but we want to make sure everyone is on board and this adoption of camera use is widespread,” he said. “It’s a small cost to install this surveillance compared to the safety and comfort it provides to local businesses and their customers, as well as the public at large. It will make the city safer.”

No specific timeline has been established for requiring the surveillance upgrades, but city officials said they will not try to force businesses to upgrade overnight and want to work with them as partners on the project.

“It will take a long timetable to implement this. We will need to give the businesses time to make these changes or present alternatives that would be just as effective,” Tomlinson said. “We don’t have a timetable yet, but it would likely be at least several months. We want to be partners with businesses on this, not have an adversarial role.”

The cameras would function the same way current surveillance does from a legal standpoint.

“The business owner would have access to it. It would be their property, and they can utilize it for whatever use they may have, such as if they want to prosecute a shoplifter. They also can access it to see if an employee is stealing or not going to work and other such situations,” Tomlinson said. “The police also can, of course, have access to (the camera footage) in the event of a crime. Hopefully, the business owners would voluntarily provide it to the Police Department. Alternatively, the police could also get an investigative subpoena.”

Proponents of the measure said similar measures have been successful in nearby communities.

“It’s both a deterrent and a law enforcement tool in the event something does happen. … It should be a useful tool in making the city safer,” Tomlinson said. “They adopted a similar ordinance in Clinton Township, and it’s been very effective.”

Clinton Township implemented its surveillance ordinance in 2017. Approximately 250 businesses were affected, and the results have allowed several crimes to be solved faster than they would have been otherwise, according to Clinton Township Police Capt. Richard Maierle.

“Anytime we’ve had an incident at one of these places, we can immediately identify or eliminate suspects and see the truth if there are two sides of the story,” he said.

Maierle added that while a few businesses balked at the extra expense, most were pleased to have the new program implemented.

“There are a few places that are not in complete compliance, but most places were very cooperative,” Maierle said. “Most businesses already had it and wanted to protect themselves. The only modification a lot of businesses had to do more extensive work on was increasing their exterior cameras. But overall, it’s been a huge success.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.