Fight triggered after city demands businesses install cameras, pay cops to watch them

 May 25, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A city scheme in Jackson, Miss., that demands small business owners install cameras on their property as the police department specifies, then pay a charge of $950 to have those connected to the police headquarters so officers can spy through them, has triggered a fight.

It is the Institute for Justice that has written to city officials insisting they repeal an "Orwellian" plan that forces all gas station and convenience store owners to "install security cameras and connect them" to the police department.

The attempted engineering of those small businesses' actions is "a gross violation of Americans' constitutional rights," the IJ charges.

"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 lawyers explained.

Then, the IJ reports, the city is demanding $950 from each business to have the cameras connected.

"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 IJ said.

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

The letter points out that Jackson's plan "violates Americans’ protections against both unreasonable searches and seizures and having their property taken by the government without just compensation."

Multiple constitutional elements are present, the IJ said.

"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."

The legal team told officials, "We urge the city to repeal the Blue Light Safety Initiative ordinance. Although public safety is a laudable goal, it cannot come at the expense of people’s constitutional rights. Unless the city repeals the ordinance, it will likely invite a meritorious lawsuit from a member of the community. Defending against such a suit would not only deplete the city’s time and resources but would also result in Jackson having to pay attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party."

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