Under a proposal authored by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, all convenience stores in the city would be required to have security cameras and keep video records for up to 30 days.
“Unfortunately, we get a number of armed robberies in convenience stores,” Soglin said. “They’re a frequent target and the cameras can serve two functions: One is deterrence and the other is to help identify the individuals and their vehicles.”
Soglin’s proposal follows a summer of increased violence in the city, which he said accelerated his decision to propose the ordinance.
Police Chief Mike Koval said security cameras at convenience store locations are helpful in solving crimes, citing their usefulness to an investigation into a homicide in August at a 7-Eleven on the south side.
“The cameras that were helpful to us from the surrounding businesses were literally instrumental in providing us lead information and possibly identifying the two suspects in that instant,” Koval said.
The proposed ordinance would require convenience stores to use high-resolution cameras that can record reproducible images with a date and time stamp.
Under the ordinance, security cameras would need to be located in areas that provide an overview of each counter and register area, a full-frame image of people’s faces as they enter and exit and the areas surrounding all gas pumps. Stores would also be required to maintain sufficient lighting for cameras to record quality images.
Stores would also need to post a sign at all entrances and exits that include the minimum language: “Video recording equipment in use. You may be recorded.”
“I think that what you’ll find is that these are modest initiatives that, frankly, a lot of those already involved in the convenience store industry embraced as a best practice model,” Koval said.
Kwik Trip spokesman Dave Ring said the convenience store business, headquartered in La Crosse, supports the mayor's proposal and plans to have security cameras in its Madison stores. Kwik Trip recently purchased PDQ stores across Wisconsin, including several based in Madison.
"This will serve as a crime deterrent and provide another valuable resource for the Madison Police Department, which will improve the safety and security of our customers, co-workers and the community, which is our highest priority," Ring said in a statement.
However, Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores, said that security cameras are not the most effective way to deter crime.
“(Security cameras) do tend to be more effective in apprehending criminals, but if the goal is deterrence, there are more effective measures,” Lenard said, giving examples such as minimizing cash on hand and keeping clear sight lines with no clutter in the windows.
Madison’s Public Safety Review Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. in room GR-27 of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. If the City Council approves the ordinance, it would take effect six months after the decision.
Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, and member of the Public Safety Review Committee, enthusiastically supports the mayor’s proposal.
“We’re at risk and cameras will at least identify who the perpetrator is, and they can be tracked down,” Skidmore said. “It’s a very important practice late at night, and it will either deter or help catch somebody who is not deterred.”