Dec 9, 2010 7:22 PM
On December 3rd, Chico Police received a report from a customer who'd been at Panama's Bar and CafÃ© that night. He told police he noticed a bar employee watching a live feed of video that was being recorded inside the bathroom out in the patio area. His girlfriend happened to be in the bathroom at that time. Panama's owner Robert Mowry called Action News Thursday morning. He said the camera was installed to prevent taggers from vandalizing his restrooms and that no people were ever shown in compromising positions. He faxed us a statement saying quote, "No whole person was visible while using the toilet or urinal. cameras were mounted with the least amount of intrusion on a person's privacy, exposing no more than the left side of the knee." Sgt. Rob Merrifield with Chico Police says, "If the motivation is to prevent vandalism, I'm not sure that that negates people's expectation of privacy in a bathroom."
The camera was mounted inside a fake smoke detector inside the restroom. A second camera was found behind the mirror in the University Bar bathroom downstairs. Mowry said the second camera was also there to prevent vandalism and that the area isn't deemed a private one. Quote, "The camera is placed behind the mirror above the sinks in the men's restroom to also catch vandalism and will remain there until asked to be removed since it isn't deemed a private area and is not doing any harm to anyone and only sees people coming in and out of the restroom."
Mowry says he has captured eight people vandalizing his restrooms since the cameras went up and that the cameras in conjuction with his new I-D system at the front door are designed to make customers feel safer. Despite Mowry's intentions, police say he may have broken the law. Sgt. Merrifield says, "It is a misdemeanor to put a camera in a place such as a restroom, a dressing room, changing room, where the public has a reasonable expectation of privacy." Mowry also issued an apology in this statement saying quote "We apologize to all our customers and hope that you can forgive our actions."