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September 9, 2009

Smile! The Baltimore police are watching you sip that beer.

surveillance cameraCameras on the street? OK.

Cameras in the workplace? OK.

Cameras at the intersection? OK.

But cameras in the corner bar? Hmm ...

According to this piece by Sun crime writer Peter Hermann, police will be getting live feeds from new surveillance cameras inside Shirley's Honey Hole on East Oliver Street.

In recent months, Shirley's Honey Hole has been linked to violence and drug dealing. To keep the city from padlocking her bar, owner Shirley Barner struck a deal with the cops: She would hire a security guard and set up surveillance cameras inside and outside her bar.

In return, Shirley's Honey Hole stays open ...

This is the first time a private business has allowed a live camera feed which goes directly into the Citiwatch command center on Howard Street, according to the story.

While I understand the situation, this whole thing makes me a little queasy. It's the beginning of a very slippery slope, if you ask me.

On his blog, Crime Beat, Hermann writes:

A key question, I think, is how much consent did the owner Shirley Barner really give if she accepted the terms as part of a plea deal to save her business? And what's stopping the city from making cameras-linked-to cops a part of other plea deals with other problem bars? And why stop there. Make it a condition for a liquor license, or zoning improvements, or just about anything else?

What do you think about all this?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:10 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


just wait until they have enough leverage to put them in peoples residences....

' what? a repeat offender? wellllll, if you let us put a camera in your house, we'll shave a couple of years off your drug dealing sentence....'

Wait a minute, this story is about a bar. Why is there a bar story on a music blog?

I'm not sure that I want to see inside Shirley's Honey Hole.

give the city an inch and they will DEMAND a mile in the future.

I'm usually all for law enforcement, tough penalties, etc. But this step seems to cross the line for me. If I'm in a private establishment, I expect some privacy. Especially, with the way images can be saved and float around the internet. I know this is far-fetched, but who's to say you do something pretty foolish at a bar, it gets saved by a cop for fun, then ends up on the internet? As Sam said, it is just a slippery slope and digital images can be saved a long time.

A most unbecoming name for a drinking establishment indeed.

Is this just some way for you to repeatedly write Shirley's Honey Hole over and over again and not get yelled at by the editor?


I would love to have a live feed of Shirley's Honey Hole.

That must be one of the worst bar names ever, worse than Butt's and Betty's. Sounds like something out of a bad war movie.

i'm actually kinda on the fence on this. while i realize that it IS a slippery slope, i don't think it'll be as bad as it has the potential to be, provided that once the bar can prove the shady elements are gone, the cameras go too. we already do this to alcohol offenders and issue them ankle monitors, so while it is a different situation, it's not all that foreign.

and really, the honest people that patron the bar, who aren't engaging in an illegal activity shouldn't have anything to worry about. it might be a small price to pay for keeping their favorite bar open, and clearing out the unwanted.

So far over the line that the line looks like a dot.

I think Mark Twain is on to something. They could turn the whole video camera fiasco into a money maker. They could charge a few bucks a month to watch and listen to the colorful characters in Shirley's Honey Hole.

Several bars actually have live feeds on their own web pages but a camera inside a private business monitored by the government is an enormous overstep. If you haven't noticed they just keep pushing this line further and further. I appreciate some of the positive effects placing cameras in troubled areas has had but it still doesn't make it right. Everyone likes to mock people for making comments about our country becoming socialist, communist, or losing our freedom but the truth is we're well on our way. They take it inch by inch. If a place is that bad just shut it down don't use it as an excuse to infringe on the right to privacy.

and really, the honest people that patron the bar, who aren't engaging in an illegal activity shouldn't have anything to worry about.

I used to subscribe to this theory, and part of me still does, but I can't help but notice how frequently I've been saying it lately.

My concern would come from not the potential criminal penalties but from the seizure of economic ones by the friends and supporters in power.

Do you all honestly think that if two of the Mayor's enemies were talking, or two rival business interests or a group oppossed to the Mayor, that they wouldn't listen in and attempt to utilize any information gained for their own advantage?

Not that any of these groups frequent the Honey Hole, but throw one or two in the Center Club or outside the Courthouse and who knows what you would hear.

I saw something this summer about how the MTA wanted to put microphones on all vehicles to record everything. Now that's intrusive and seems to serve no good purpose.

London has a million video cameras around the city and they seem to have helped almost not at all with crime. A million cameras in a city of about ten million.

Max's on Broadway used to have a webcam at the bar. A good way to see if your friends are there and an even better way to have your wife check up on you.

According to today's paper, the police commissioner vetoed the indoor camera at Shirley's Honey Hole.

Voodoo you're totally right about London, in fact the last time I was there I watched a number of shows that feature nothing but footage of people committing crimes on camera, like COPS but without them actually getting arrested.

Also interesting note, I watched one clip where a girl basically beat the tar out of another girl outside of a club, the whole thing was on camera and one cop barely even tried to break it up. The girl was later charged with - get this - "fighting" and spent no time in jail.

All very interesting.
Presumably you go a bar/club/restaurant to unwind after a stressful day of having to be on your best behavior, can you really relax and get comfortable with that unblinking eye is seeing and recording everything.
A great way to turn off people from patronizing places known to have cameras.

Another possibility, may be not probable, is if they put cameras where criminal activity occurs, like drug dealing, what’s to keep them from putting them in restrooms.

Not a world for the self conscious.

Regarding London,
there was a documentary on this showing the opposition basically protesting their installation because they, too, were concerned how far the police would go now that they got the right to do this.

Other on surveillance in London to ponder
A news item from
the London Evening Standard article
“George Orwell, Big Brother is watching your house”

“According to the latest studies, Britain has a staggering 4.2million CCTV cameras - one for every 14 people in the country - and 20 per cent of cameras globally. It has been calculated that each person is caught on camera an average of 300 times daily.”


Techdirt blog “Surveillance Cameras In London Not Very Effective At Solving Crime” has an interesting group of comments after the topic.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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