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Pawleys Island: South end parking lot will get security cameras

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Security cameras will go up after Memorial Day at the south end parking lot on Pawleys Island.

Georgetown County will share the $4,800 installation cost and the $185 monthly operation cost with the town of Pawleys Island, Mayor Bill Otis said. The parking lot is owned by the county, but policed by the town, and Town Council members were waiting for county funding before approving the cameras.

Last year, the town installed security cameras at the First Street beach access. Those also provide views of the adjacent streets and proved helpful last month when police arrested several teens who broke into a nearby house. “Along with the cell phone and school bag they left behind,” Police Chief Mike Fanning said. The teens held a three-day party, which ended when the property owner arrived. They were charged with burglary, but Fanning said that will likely be reduced to trespassing. “The homeowner is amenable,” he said. “They were all apologetic. You can chalk it up to stupid kid stuff.”

However, he said the owner’s partner is now afraid to go back to the house.

It was the only burglary reported on the island this year, something that town officials partly attribute to the license plate cameras installed at the island’s two causeways two years ago after a series of break-ins at vacant beach houses.

The town will install two sets of four cameras at the south end parking lot. They will also provide images along Springs Avenue.

Otis said it wasn’t difficult to get the county’s cooperation. “I think the county understands how extensively we’ve had to increase our presence down there for the last six or seven years,” he said. The town has a part-time officer assigned to the parking lot during holiday weekends and in the summer.

While the license camera data is run through the State Law Enforcement Division, the police department monitors and stores the security camera data. The company that provides the cameras help in accessing and reviewing the data, Fanning said.

And while Town Council pushed for the security cameras, members are taking a more cautious approach to providing body camera for police. A bill pending in the legislature would require them. It was filed following the shooting of an unarmed man by a North Charleston police officer last month.

“We’re not going to do this until we have a really good written policy,” Otis said. Defining when the cameras would be switched on, who would have access to the images and how privacy would be protected are key issues.

“When I’m patroling the beach on the four-wheeler I stop and talk to everybody,” Fanning said. “Would that be a ‘police interaction’ ” as defined by the proposed law?

Those cameras cost about $1,000 each. They can generate a large amount of data that has to be stored and possibly reviewed, he said.

“It’s protective of the town and its officers to have them,” Council Member Mike Adams said.

Fanning believes they are inevitable. “Eventually we’re probably going to need them because every other police department is going to have them,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the silver bullet everybody thinks it is.”

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