The Atlanta City Council is looking to make people safer at the pump after unanimously passing legislation requiring security cameras at all gas stations in City proper.
The new ordinance (23-O-1346) mandates Atlanta convenience stores have continuous high-quality video recording of all gas pumps, and that the stores immediately alert--and turn over that commercial-grade video to--police after any actual or suspected crime. The stores would also have to have a working backup system in operation.
The legislation is aimed at reducing the number of car theft incidents and violence at service stations throughout the city, which the paper’s co-sponsor says have been increasing in number.
“If you look at the last few crimes that we have solved right here in the metropolitan area, outside of the City of Atlanta, it’s been through camera footage,” says Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Waites.
She says cameras could deter crime and help catch criminals.
“We see this as a tool that protects not only the public at large, it’s a tool for law enforcement to capture bad actors and people who have ill intentions.”
The ordinance passed 13-0 after a slight substitution to the proposed law: Instead of requiring cameras at “every” gas pump, it was tweaked to say the cameras, however installed, should be able to see all gas pumps.
Waites tells WSB since business licenses would be rejected without compliance, it’s not truly enforceable unless the State signs off, as this effectively becomes a new tax.
“You cannot mandate a tax on one specific business and not all of the others. You have to go through the General Assembly, and you can do that based on the need for public safety,” she explains.
During the City Council’s public comment section, lawmakers heard from someone on behalf of the stores.
Greg Pridgeon, speaking for an attorney who reps United Convenience Stores, reminded lawmakers that most already have cameras; he noted a recent event in which a truck banged into the side of a building, and cameras at a station picked up the license plate number of the vehicle. Pridgeon says while C-stores intend to work with the City and APD on this to make their environments safer, he implied this ordinance singles out small business owners.
“These convenience stores don’t commit crimes. It’s the criminals who commit crimes,” said Pridgeon. “We hope to be able to have equal treatment for these businesses as you would with all businesses that would create or have problems around their stores.”
Waites hopes for tax breaks and other methods to help business owners afford the upgrades, “for example at the time of the renewal of your business license, and new construction. So that should drive down the costs and not burden those individuals who are working toward this goal.”
She says the goal is public safety, not punishment.
“The cost of saving a life should not have a number,” says Waites.
The lawmaker is now eyeing the possibility of looping other types of businesses into such an ordinance.
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