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Pawleys Island: License plate cameras also slow traffic

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Plans for cameras to read license plates of vehicles entering and leaving the town of Pawleys Island raised some concerns about “Big Brother.” Now that the cameras are in place, they are more like a little brother: willing to tell what they know, but still needing parental guidance.

The cameras are linked to a computer database that sends out alerts for licenses that are suspended or belong to stolen vehicles. The system has provided one or two alerts a day since it went on line earlier this month, Police Chief Mike Fanning said.

“About half have been erroneous,” he said.

That isn’t the fault of the cameras. They read the license numbers. What they don’t read is the state where the license was issued.

That means an officer has to verify that the number and the state match, he said.

The alerts, accurate or not, represent a small portion of the island’s traffic. Fanning said the cameras read 1,000 plates from midnight Monday through 5 p.m.

The cameras are mounted on the North and South Causeways. They aren’t traffic cameras, but Fanning said he sees brake lights come on when drivers spot them. He isn’t complaining.

The town is working with the county sheriff’s office to enable the license plate alerts to be sent to a computer in patrol cars. The alerts currently go to the police department computer in Town Hall.

“Most are for suspended registrations,” Fanning said. The goal is to use the data to spot culprits in cases of house break-ins.

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