Group’s main concern was warrantless access to video surveillance tapes by policeThe ACLU of Virginia today hailed a decision by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to turn down provisions in a proposed ordinance that would have required adult businesses to install security cameras and to make the video tapes available to the police upon request.
At its meeting last night, the Board of Supervisors adopted other less controversial zoning requirements for adult business, but took out provisions that would have required each adult business in the county to have a “security specialist” install surveillance cameras that “continuously monitor all entrances, parking areas and all areas of the establishment where adult business is conducted.” The cameras would have had to provide “clear imagery” of all “patrons and their vehicles,” and the video tapes would have to be preserved for four months. Police were given the authority to have access to the tapes at any time “upon request.”
The ACLU of Virginia, which has already decided to mount a legal challenge to a similar provision in a Chesterfield County ordinance, indicated that it would likely challenge the Prince William proposal, if passed. Prince William County officials apparently decided to drop the video requirement to avoid conflict over the issue. According to the Potomac News, Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Sean T. Connaughton said, “Given that there seems to some controversy about this and no controversy about the rest of the requirement, that was one reason I suggested taking these out.”
“We are very pleased that Prince William officials decided to make this change,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “It was clear to us from the beginning that the purpose of the video cameras was not to control crime in the vicinity of adult-oriented stores, but to frighten away customers and undermine adult businesses. The former is a legitimate concern of the county. The latter, however, is a blatant violation of the free speech and privacy rights of the owners and customers of adult businesses.”
In a letter faxed to Prince William County Supervisors on Monday, ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg wrote: “This provision is an egregious violation of the constitutional rights of adult business owners and their patrons. First, it violates the Fourth Amendment right of business owners to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, in that it allows police to seize property without a warrant or probable cause… Moreover, the provision violates customers’ First Amendment right to receive information with privacy and anonymity.”
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022