In Aftermath of Shane Montgomery’s Death, Curtis Jones Wants Cameras Outside Bars

The Restaurant and Lodging Association calls his proposal an "unfunded mandate."

Shane Montgomery

Shane Montgomery

Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. admits it is unlikely his proposal would have saved Shane Montgomery’s life.

But, he says, it could have shortened the agonizing amount of time that Montgomery’s parents and friends waited to find out his fate. Montgomery, a 21-year-old West Chester University student, apparently drowned in the Schuylkill River last year after drinking at a neighborhood bar, but his body wasn’t discovered for weeks.

Jones is planning to introduce a bill that would require all Philadelphia establishments that serve alcohol to place at least one camera outdoors. Kildare’s Irish Pub, the Manayunk bar where Montgomery was drinking, did not have a functioning exterior camera.

If it had, “we could have put closure to this story a long time ahead of what actually happened,” says Jones.

A couple weeks into the search for Montgomery, footage was found of him from a local nail salon’s camera. But, Jones says, “There were gaps in where he went. When you start to close those gaps, you can put together a timeline that helps to establish facts.”

Jones also says his legislation could help prevent crime outside of drinking establishments.

“Cameras are a deterrent just by being visible,” he says. “It is a tough witness that can’t be intimidated.”

Jones says businesses would be reimbursed by the city for half of the price of the camera as part of Philadelphia’s “SafeCam Program,” which is already up and running. He is also considering offering a tax credit to companies that purchase cameras. He could not say how much his legislation would cost the city, but says he would explore that at a hearing for the bill.

If his bill gets a hearing, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association will likely want to chime in.

Melissa Bova, the association’s director of government affairs, says she has concerns about Jones’ proposal.

“I understand his intention and I think what happened in Manayunk is horrible,” she says. “But I don’t know if requiring every business to have cameras is going to solve the problem.”

Bova questioned if a business owner would be penalized if a camera was inadvertently pointing in the wrong direction, and whether a company would be responsible for meeting the requirement if it was leasing its building.

“This is another unfunded mandate,” she says.

Jones says he will introduce the legislation next Thursday.

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