MADISON — All commercial businesses located here will now be required to install and maintain security cameras or face a fine or jail following passage of a new citywide ordinance by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.

“A matter that has been of increasing concern to the board lately is keeping the citizens of Madison safe, as well as the people who come here to visit our stores, through the use of security cameras,” City Attorney John Hedglin said. “It’s very important to have a record of what happens in as many places as possible.”

The ordinance has 30 days before it takes effect.

Hedglin said the ordinance includes retail shops, doctor’s offices, lawyer’s offices, etc. Any business that has 25 or more parking spaces or a 2,000 square-foot space will have to comply.

“Essentially everything but residential neighborhoods,” he said.

Hedglin said that word would spread that people that wanted to do bad things in the city of Madison would not come.

Existing businesses will have one year after the ordinance goes into effect to comply. Those that fail to comply may be subject to a $500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail. Each day of noncompliance is a different violation.

As far as enforcement, Hedglin said that has not been assigned to any particular department yet.

Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell's Bakery in Madison and Fondren, said that he has cameras at both locations and has personally experienced the benefits of having them.

"I think it will be very beneficial," Moore said. "It is amazingly beneficial. Without them, law enforcement is essentially in the dark. We have experienced going to the cameras after an incident. Anything it can give them whether it is a face or a license plate makes their jobs much easier."

Some business owners, when contacted by the Journal, were unaware of the new ordinance and didn’t want to comment on the specifics.

One shop owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was intrusive and would be an unnecessary expense.

Police Chief Gene Waldrop said this was a proactive approach to policing and serving the community.

“It not only just helps us,” he said. “It also helps the businesses to have a record of people that want to take advantage of a business.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he continued. “Every day we wake up wanting to have a zero crime rate and we feel this ordinance will only assist us in doing that.”

Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler said they discuss the need for surveillance cameras with new businesses as they come and most voluntarily move froward with them.

“Now as we start to get more and more commercial, especially as those cameras age and sometimes they’re not maintained, we need something in place to regulate that,” she said.

Just this year there were at least two armed robberies in the city where surveillance equipment was unable to capture the suspects for a number of reasons.