'Mechanical eyes in the skies' aid local law enforcement

Cameras are installed at some beach access points.
Cameras are installed at some beach access points.

PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC (WMBF) – Police officers are looking to the sky for help, eyeing technology which some officers call a ‘mechanical eye' to cut down on crime.

Recently, Pawleys Island installed a set of surveillance cameras by the beach access point on Atlantic Avenue and First Street.

“Council took time in considering putting up the license plate readers on the causeways last year. They help considerably, especially in the wintertime,” explained Mayor Bill Otis. Mayor Otis said the success of those causeway cameras led the council to consider cameras at the beach access points.

“We are taking this winter to do a trial run of the cameras by one of our busiest beach access points. We will see if it helps, if it protects, and if it makes it easier for law enforcement,” added the mayor.

The supplier, in which the island worked with for the causeway cameras, gave the first set to the island free of charge.

“While it was given to us, it did cost around one thousand dollars to install and in the future would cost another one thousand dollars to buy,” said Mayor Otis.

Pawleys Island could potentially put up cameras on six beach access points along with two additional camera units on the south end parking area.

Each unit has four cameras attached and costs between $130-150 a month to power it and connect it to wi-fi.

By utilizing wi-fi, the police force could instantly stream live pictures of the access points on their wireless devices.

“If an officer was on the south end he could quickly pull it up on his iPad to do a quick inspection,” shared Pawleys Island Police Chief Michael Fanning.

Chief Fanning and Mayor Otis, along with the council, will re-evaluate the trial run after the winter ends. They may decide to get rid of the wi-fi and simply pull video from the server after an incident occurs. Either way, they hope the cameras will serve as a deterrent to criminals and as a concrete witness for law enforcement.

“CSI and those shows have done a disservice to law enforcement because they can solve a crime in an hour, we don't have that luxury. Juries want to see that hard evidence; DNA, video, tangible evidence”

While Pawleys Island is the latest to install the camera system, other coastal cities are considering the same thing.

“We have looked into putting more cameras throughout the city to include beach accesses to add onto what we already have,” wrote Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department.

Mark Kruea, the spokesperson for the City of Myrtle Beach, explained there are already cameras on Ocean Boulevard and the boardwalk. With nearly 150 beach access points, there are financial factors to consider before installing them.

Captain Knipes added, “Certainly it is a budgetary consideration and one that I'm sure we will address again in this upcoming budget preparations.”

He described the crime that occurs at beach access points revolves around breaking and entering into cars.

“These numbers would come down dramatically if people would take extra precautions to secure their valuables,” he wrote in an email.

North Myrtle Beach does not have cameras at beach access points, nor are there plans to install them in the future, according to spokesperson Pat Dowling.

On the South strand, Surfside Beach already has four cameras deployed on the beach. Two of which are on beach access points, while two are on the pier. Another camera has been installed in the business district on Surfside Drive.

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