Two men were shot and killed in separate incidents near Bing’s Liquors 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 a 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 department presented its 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 at San Pablo Avenue and Delaware Street, the council directed staff to examine the idea of requirements for video surveillance cameras at all liquor stores, and to consider El Cerrito’s ordinance as a possible model.
El Cerrito’s approach -- which was adopted in 2007 and includes 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.
Video footage shot outside or inside liquor stores remains the store owner’s property, though it can be obtained by way of a warrant. Meehan said he expected store owners to share surveillance footage with the police voluntarily, as many had expressed their support for the initiative.
The new law will likely pass at a second reading at the council, and liquor stores would have six months to come into compliance.
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