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Pawleys Island: Cameras will record licence tags of vehicles entering town

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Something didn’t sound right.

An Andrews man told Pawleys Island police he was robbed and beaten with a baseball bat in the south end parking lot Friday night. He crawled to his car where he spent the night and drove himself to Georgetown Memorial Hospital in the morning.

But the man had been drinking, Police Chief Mike Fanning said. And police had written three tickets for overnight parking at the south end. “He wasn’t one of them,” Fanning said.

The town of Pawleys Island plans to install cameras that will read and record license numbers of vehicles as they cross the two causeways between the island and the mainland. The cameras would have cleared up questions about the robbery victim in minutes rather than hours. They would have cut a day from the investigation into a series of break-ins last winter. And officials hope they will help deter crime on the island.

The cameras will cost $35,000 and the town plans to have them in operation as soon as possible.

“I know it’s a lot of money, but it’s the wave of the future,” Fanning told Town Council this week.

The system will check license numbers against a database of warrants and alerts. The information can be sent to an officer’s smartphone.

“I think it’s worth it,” Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said, although she wondered if grants are available for the equipment.

“Grants have become very hard to come by these days with sequestration,” Fanning said. He asked the State Law Enforcement Division and was told the Navy base in Charleston got one for homeland security. “I tried to argue that we are a border community,” Fanning said. That didn’t work.

The cost of the cameras has come down from $80,000 when Fanning began looking at the systems two years ago. Town Council decided to consider a system after break-ins at 13 island homes in January. A Georgetown man was arrested and charged with five of those. He was on probation at the time and wore a GPS monitor.

The man became a suspect because an officer happened to see a television in the man’s vehicle when he was stopped by a deputy for a traffic violation. “I’d rather not leave it to luck,” Fanning said.

The camera would have allowed police to see what vehicles were on the island during the period when the break-ins took place.

“I think he’s right,” Mayor Bill Otis said. “We’ve had break-ins, we’ve had issues.”

Once word gets around that the town has the cameras it should deter would-be criminals. “I think that’s really important,” Otis said.

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