A targeted industry

Prince William County officials often say they are powerless in stopping the slash and burn development of strip malls along our congested highways. Yet they’re about to roll up their sleeves to prevent the spread of strip clubs and adult video stores.

There must be an election on the horizon.

County Supervisor Chairman Sean Connaughton has proposed tough rules for so-called “adult businesses” in Prince William County. In doing so, he has proposed that all owners of these businesses be fingerprinted and photographed while applying for a specific license each year which includes an annual fee. Other ideas floating around include requiring surveillance cameras near the entrance to such businesses and in the parking lots. Video surveillance would have to be accessible to police.

A unanimous vote by the board earlier this week got the ball rolling on this issue and a final version of the law is expected later this year.

There are few people who will publicly defend adult businesses, but this is often where the Constitutional battles of civil liberties are waged. Laws aimed at getting rid of these establishments (which are currently few and far between in Prince William) are too often overkill. Once established, such laws could be applied liberally toward other targeted businesses.

If Connaughton and the supporters of this proposal want to rid the county of the temptation posed by “adult” businesses, they shouldn’t trample the Constitution to do it. Some supervisors have admitted that the proposals are more of a deterrent than a method of tracking such enterprises.

The American Civil Liberties Union vows to fight such an initiative and it seems to have a strong case.

Fingerprinting and taking mug shots of business owners adult or otherwise is reminiscent of government tyranny. Today it’s an adult video store, tomorrow it’s the convenience store that carries Playboy magazine or even a newspaper that runs lingerie ads. Why not go one step further and clip an article of clothing and seal it in a jar in case the hounds have to track these business owners in the future? That’s what East Germany did.

Nothing is more insulting than the video surveillance proposal where law abiding residents would be subject to government scrutiny though it might be interesting to see how many folks going into these establishments draw a county paycheck. After all, it’s not illegal to visit a lawfull establishment.

In an era when government is increasingly hostile toward access to public information, it seems the government is more than willing to delve into the private lives of law abiding citizens.

Discouraging undesirable businesses may be a noble cause for the community at-large, but the methods used often undermine the constitutional rights the government is charged with protecting. That’s why the local government should try another tack in this morality war.

Similar Posts