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Cameras discourage crime in, near liquor store

MASON CITY ñ Video cameras that were installed following a fight at Northside Liquor last May have definitely had the desired effect, according to Gulshan “Sonny” Abbas, manager of the store. Above: Footage from several security cameras, including the one atop this monitor, helps employees keep track of people in and around Northside Liquor. The highly visible security system helps discourage bad behavior.
Story by Joe Buttweiler|Cameras discourage crime in, near liquor store
Third in a series
Read Part 1: Online maps help citizens, police track crime
Read Part 2: Officers have criminal data at their fingertips

By Joe Buttweiler

MASON CITY ñ Video cameras that were installed following a fight at Northside Liquor last May have definitely had the desired effect, according to Gulshan “Sonny” Abbas, manager of the store.

There are now 11 cameras in all, up from two previously. Most were installed inside the store, but others monitor the parking lot. Neighbors had cited loitering in the lot as contributing to problems in the neighborhood.

“We didn’t want to be mean, but just asked people to leave” if they were hanging around inside or outside the store, Abbas said recently.

Police increased their patrols and worked with neighbors to brush up on reporting suspicious activity.
Feeds from nine cameras appear on a big monitor near the checkout counter, sending a loud and clear message that activity is being watched.

“We want people to see the security system we have,” Abbas said. “If people know there are many cameras they won’t do anything because they know we’ll have evidence.”

He said the guy who started the fight was told he is not welcome in the store, and others who cause problems are also barred. There was quite a bit of damage from the fight, police said at the time. Two men, ages 19 and 22, were arrested shortly afterward.

“Now we don’t take chances,” Abbas said. “Anyone who comes in the store and just hangs around, we ask them to leave. We don’t want to lose good customers.”

Security cameras at another business Abbas manages, the Cenex gas station on South Monroe Avenue, helped authorities catch a woman who stole lottery tickets, Abbas noted.

A couple times police have asked for video from the Northside cameras to help with their investigations, he said, adding that police helped by doing extra patrols in the area after the violence in the area last May. It helped that officers would sometimes come on foot, Abbas said, adding that it sometimes discourages business when there is a squad car parked in the lot.

Abbas, who has managed the store for about four years and previously lived in Milwaukee, said there are nice people in the neighborhood, so he wanted to do the right thing by taking steps to prevent problems.

A clerk at a nearby business said there hasn’t been any trouble in the area n recent months. There has been a “night-and-day difference,” he said, since last spring.

Capt. Mike McKelvey of the Mason City Police Department said the store was very responsive to neighbor concerns by putting up the cameras and discouraging loitering.

“It has really helped,” said Rhonda True of the North End Partnership Association. “They seem to have eliminated any loitering.”

Of course things usually calm down during the winter when it’s too cold to stand outside. It will be interesting to see how things go in the spring and summer, True said.|

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