ND town wants to tame townies with video

SSN Staff  - 
Sunday, March 1, 2009

CENTER, N.D.--Even here in this three-bar town of fewer than 700, authorities are calling on video surveillance to curb violence. According to AP reports, Oliver County State’s Attorney Mike Liffrig has requested town officials here make video surveillance mandatory in the town’s bars after a string of brawls has left patrons bloodied, but cops without suspects to arrest.

“One of the problems is that fights don’t get reported,” city attorney John Mahoney told the AP. “Or they don’t get reported until several days later, and by then the evidence is stale and the trail is cool.”

Having fights recorded would help prove cases, Liffrig told the AP.

One of the bar owners, Perry Wold, owner of the Lonewolf Saloon, objected to the proposal. “There are a lot of people who come to bars to talk about other people,” he told the AP. “I like to drink my beer, too, and my mouth might get a little loose.”

Wolf said bar owners are policing themselves. He installed a video surveillance system after his bar was burglarized, but said he won’t allow audio recording.

Rudie Martinson, executive director of the North Dakota Hospitality Association, told the AP electronic surveillance systems are common in the state.

“From the standpoint of bars that are our members, it’s a security issue,” said Martinson, whose group represents about 450 restaurants, bars and hotels.

Susan Cahoon, owner of Cahoon’s Bar & Grill, told the AP her business also has a security camera, but that bar fights already have been curbed by banishing people with a history of fighting.

Even patrons who’ve been injured in bar fights don’t like the idea of recordings. Dean Windhorst told the AP he was beaten up in two bar fights, the most recently in August.

“It took about two weeks for my black eyes to go away, and I had my bottom teeth coming through my lip,” he said. But the proposed surveillance, he said: “It’s an invasion of privacy.”