Matthew Prensky
Matthew Prensky · May 20, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to city leaders in Jackson, Mississippi, calling on them to repeal an Orwellian ordinance that forces all gas stations and convenience stores in Jackson to install security cameras and connect them to the Jackson Police Department’s camera surveillance system. Jackson’s ordinance is a gross violation of Americans’ constitutional rights, and IJ is actively seeking to speak to business owners who are affected. 

Last month the Jackson City Council approved an ordinance that gives all gas stations and convenience stores 120 days to install surveillance systems and connect them to the city. Despite most gas stations and convenience stores already having cameras, Jackson is requiring these small businesses spend their hard-earned dollars to install or change their systems to comply with the city’s various technical and location requirements. The ordinance also requires businesses to pay a $950 fee to Jackson to have their cameras connected to the police department’s surveillance system. The city council empowered its Department of Planning and Development to enforce this ordinance, “through whatever administrative measures and means the department deems necessary,” which can include fines. 

“The city council is turning Jackson into a police state and singling out certain businesses to pay for it,” said IJ Attorney Jared McClain. “The government’s desire for more surveillance cameras cannot come at the expense of people’s constitutional rights.” 

Jackson’s ordinance violates Americans’ protections against both unreasonable searches and seizures and having their property taken by the government without just compensation. By forcing businesses to give police complete access to their cameras, the city of Jackson is conducting an unreasonable search of every gas station and convenience store in Jackson and seizing their video footage, which violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, by requiring businesses to install cameras or make changes to their current systems, the city’s ordinance violates Jacksonians’ Fifth Amendment right to receive fair compensation if the government permanently occupies even a small part of their property. 

For more than three decades, IJ has fought against various laws that permit government officials to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, including challenges to rental inspection ordinances in Iowa, New York, and Pennsylvania. IJ has also contested similar video surveillance ordinances that force property owners to install cameras, including in DeKalb County, Georgia, where IJ recently convinced county officials to amend its surveillance ordinance that allowed for warrantless seizures of video footage from gas stations. 

IJ is interested in hearing from business owners who are affected by this ordinance. They can reach IJ at this link.