Two young men were shot and killed near Bing’s Liquors store on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley in 2013. The homicides contributed to a recommendation this week that liquor stores in certain commercial areas of the city install or upgrade their surveillance systems within the next six months.
In the report that was given a first approval by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday, police identified the areas of concern as downtown, University Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, San Pablo Avenue, north Shattuck Avenue, and Shattuck and Adeline.
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, who submitted the recommendation, said many liquor stores in the city already have video surveillance cameras. However they are not always maintained and there are inconsistencies in the type of systems used. He said a typical case might see the son at a family-owned business being the only one who knows how to operate the camera.
The new ordinance would see police officers help all the relevant liquor stores get compatible digital equipment that is in working order, he said, speaking at a special session in which the police presented their 2014 Crime Report.
Meehan said the police hear regularly from members of the community who would like to see steps taken to help mitigate crime problems around liquor stores.
“We receive many quality-of-life complaints from residences,” he said.
After the two homicides in 2013 — of Dustin Bynum and Zontee Jones — that took place near Bing’s Liquor on San Pablo Avenue and Delaware Street, the council directed staff to examine the idea of requirements for video surveillance cameras at all liquors stores, and to consider the City of El Cerrito’s ordinance as a possible model.
El Cerrito’s approach — which was adopted in 2007 and takes in banks, carry-out food and drink establishments and check-cashing businesses — was determined to be too broad-based for Berkeley. It was agreed that the focus would be on liquor stores.
Any video footage shot outside or inside liquor stores remains the store owner’s private property. But Chief Meehan said he expected store owners to share surveillance footage with the police voluntarily as many had expressed their support for the initiative. If necessary, the police can issue a warrant to access the video, Meehan said, but he hoped this would not prove necessary.
The new law will likely pass at second reading at Council, and liquor stores would have six months to come into compliance.
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