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Pawleys Island: Town plans cameras for south end parking lot

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The town of Pawleys Island will add security cameras to the popular south end parking lot, the county’s largest free beach access. Town Council agreed this week to get prices and have the cameras installed before Memorial Day.

The decision follows a winter when Pawleys Island Police have not logged a single house break-in, a record attributed in part to the installation in 2013 of cameras that read license plates of vehicles crossing the two causeways to the island.

Last fall, the town installed a set of video cameras at the First Street beach access. Those have not been used in any investigations, Police Chief Mike Fanning said. But Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said she believes the cameras are needed at the south end. “Are we going to wait for it to prove its worth,” she asked.

“I will take any help I can get,” Fanning said.

The town has an officer on duty in the south end lot, which is owned by Georgetown County, on summer weekends and holidays. There were 15 incidents reported there from June 1 to Aug. 30 including four car break-ins. There were eight incidents at First Street in the same period.

“The south end is our albatross during the summer,” Fanning said.

While the license plate readers are monitored by the State Law Enforcement Division and send alerts if they spot a number in its database, the security cameras have to be monitored by the town. Officers can get the live video on their smartphones and review the recorded video. “It’s more of an investigative tool than a patrol tool,” Fanning said.

The video camera can help identify suspects who are on foot or on bicycles, he added.

It costs about $150 a month for electricity and an Internet connection for the First Street camera. The installation was free as a trial, but cost about $1,000 and include four cameras.

It could require two sets of cameras to cover the south end parking lot, and Mayor Bill Otis said it’s important to have one camera facing north on Springs Avenue to get information about vehicles leaving the lot.

The council will get a cost breakdown from Fanning next month and wants to have the cameras operating in May.

Also this week, Fanning gave a tour of the town’s camera system to the president of the Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association. More than 20 break-ins have been discovered at homes in Litchfield Beach and North Litchfield this year.

The association has been considering license plate cameras that would be monitored by SLED for the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. “We fully intend to do it. We’re going to find a way,” said Ladd Dezendorf, the association president.

With three entrances, the Litchfield Beaches cameras would cost over $57,000. The association collects $50,000 a year in dues, though it does have a reserve fund.

A poll of members included in their annual renewals found support for the cameras. The issue will come up at the group’s meeting in May.

“Since they put the cameras in at Pawleys, it seems like [burglars] are coming here,” Dezendorf said.

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