Minneapolis to Consider New Minimum Standards on CCTV Systems

In Minneapolis, you might just need to check the quality of the CCTV system you're using or installing. A new proposal to be made to the Minneapolis' City Council's Public Safety Committee could require certain minimum standards for surveillance systems if passed by the Minneapolis City Council.

The proposed ordinance, which is scheduled to be discussed at the Wednesday, Aug. 10 meeting of the city's Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, would update the existing surveillance standards to require that convenience stores, grocery stores, tobacco retailers and liquor stores have certain minimum standards for surveillance. The public is invited to the meeting.

The standards would require 24-hour operation of the surveillance cameras, as well as periodic inspections by the Minneapolis Police Department or the city's Business License Division, as well as signage indicating that the property is under surveillance. But if the ordinance moves through committee and later passes the city council, that won't be all that has to change. The proposed ordinance sets certain minimum requirements for a number of surveillance systems including photographic 35mm surveillance systems, as well as the more common tape-based systems and newer digitally recorded systems.

For VHS-based systems, store owners will need to use 240 TV lines resolution, but for S-VHS systems, a minimum of 400 lines of horizontal resolution would be required. The system would require that at least one camera is used for the system, and that the camera would pointed at customers coming in the main entrance, and would require that the person in the image covers at least one-fourth of the recorded area. Panning cameras would be disallowed for this operation; only a fixed camera could be used. Original tapes would have to be provided to the investigating officer within eight hours of the incident. It would also require that 1) a tape not be used to record more than a 24-hour period, and 2) that recorded video include a time/date stamp.

The VHS system specifications would also spell out minimum standards on tape usage, requiring:

  • Business owners to possess 32 tapes, with 31 of them numbered consecutively to correspond to the particular day of the month;
  • Tapes to be use for only one day each month, resulting in use of a maximum of 12 times per year; and
  • No tapes "that are of such poor quality or condition that they can no longer provide satisfactory images".

According to Julie Casey, a license inspector with Minneapolis' Business Licenses division, which handles a portion of the enforcement, the earlier standards required only a five-day hold of surveillance tapes, and didn't require that there be one tape used for each day of the month.

Digital requirements are much more vague, with no specific statements in regards to image resolution or preferred file formats. Digital systems, like their VHS counterparts, would be expected to also operate a fixed camera at the store entrance. The proposal does spell out that the camera will need to "record and store the image at the highest resolution native to the system." Images are only told be saved in a "retrievable format" and able to be transferred to a removable media, which must be provided to the Minneapolis Police Department.

While the ordinance specifically covers convenience stores, gas stations and other such "automobile related facilities," the ordinance, if passed, would not cover these stores if they are located within a secured building, such as an office facility or residential facility where the facility itself provides either an access control system or a guard, concierge or doorman.

If passed, the ordinance would not take effect until Jan. 31, 2006, for existing businesses, but as proposed, would immediately affect any new or proposed businesses.

The Business License division's Casey added that the ordinance has been very popular with security systems dealers in the area, since it was established following a 1996 Amoco convenience store shooting that left two dead. According to Casey, the city is essentially updating the ordinance to new digital standards, and improving on old ones. The move she says, has come largely without opposition from city business owners, especially since most owners are simply being asked to purchase more tapes for their existing systems.

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