ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to leaders in DeKalb County, Georgia, calling on them to reverse course and repeal an Orwellian ordinance requiring gas stations and convenience stores to install surveillance cameras at their own expense and turn video footage over to law enforcement without a warrant.
DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance in December 2022 mandating that all gas stations and convenience stores install security camera systems that meet a list of specific requirements, despite the fact that 90% of these businesses already have existing systems in place. Any business that fails to comply with the county’s new requirements by January 1, 2024, risks losing their business license, in addition to the potential for fines or jailtime.
“The government can’t get around the warrant requirement by forcing private businesses to conduct surveillance on the police’s behalf,” said IJ Attorney Jared McClain. “What we’re seeing in DeKalb County goes beyond being creepy or dystopian – government officials are threatening people’s livelihood unless they comply. It’s unconstitutional.”
The ordinance requires businesses to install security cameras at every gas pump and at the convenience store’s point of entry, point of exit, and point of sale. The cameras must have night vision, and the systems must meet specific video resolution requirements, be able to store 60 days’ worth of footage, and be able to supply police with video footage within 72 hours regardless of a warrant. Additionally, the ordinance requires businesses to have lighting on 75 feet of the building.
DeKalb County has hired six new code enforcement officers to enforce these new requirements. As of early October, inspections of approximately half of the relevant businesses revealed that less than a quarter made the required upgrades.
As part of its Project on the Fourth Amendment, IJ has fought against various laws that permit government officials to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, laws in Tennessee and Pennsylvania that allow law enforcement to enter private property to conduct a search or inspection without the consent of the property owner.