Smile, you're on candid beach camera.
Isle of Palms is planning video surveillance of the front beach commercial district and the IOP Connector.
Seven cameras would stream images into the Police Department where they can be watched by an employee. Recordings would be held for a short period of time before being overwritten, officials said.
Four cameras would be placed in the Ocean Boulevard median between 10th and 14th avenues. Two more cameras in the commercial district would be aimed at the area around the public restrooms. Another camera would be pointed at the intersection of Palm Boulevard and the Connector.
The cameras will help manage situations in the busy commercial district, such as large, disruptive alcohol-fueled crowds, said Mayor Dick Cronin.
"We want to keep a better eye. If something happens, then we have a recording of what went on," he said.
He noted that a camera on Palm Boulevard aimed at the Connector can help travelers know about current traffic. IOP hopes to make that camera available to the public, he said.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the City Council Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider approval of a $25,000 contract for the cameras. The meeting is at City Hall.
"I think they are necessary. They can't hurt anything. They can help," said Councilwoman Barbara Bergwerf, who is committee vice-chairman.
Last spring, Police Chief Thomas Buckhannon requested the new surveillance equipment to replace four commercial district cameras that have been broken for more than a year.
City Council must approve the cameras, which could be installed in the early part of this beach season. They are funded by the hospitality tax, officials said.
The city has cameras at the Recreation Department.
"It's not that we are watching everybody, but at the same time we actually caught kids who were damaging property," said City Councilman Jimmy Carroll.
Victoria Middleton, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, said it has not been proven that 24/7 surveillance prevents crime.
"It can give a false sense of safety," she said.
Beach cameras raise privacy concerns in an era when extraordinary amounts of data about personal lives already are being gathered, Middleton said.
Strict controls are needed to prevent misuse of images or video gathered through public cameras, she said.
Sullivan's Island has a few wildlife cameras to monitor deer and coyotes, but no public safety cameras.
Folly Beach has no surveillance cameras, but there has been discussion about when that might happen.
"We have talked about these when the new bridges are built," said Mayor Tim Goodwin.
The town of Edisto Beach has video monitoring of S.C. Highway 174 onto the island. Some there have expressed concern about how long images are stored. Police say the technology is a "force multiplier."
The city of Charleston uses a video-monitoring system. More than 40 cameras keep tabs on areas such as the Port of Charleston, The Market and East Side housing, such as Gadsden Green, officials said.
Mount Pleasant and North Charleston officials said those cities do not use surveillance systems. North Charleston has four automated license plate readers scattered throughout the city to detect stolen license plates, officials said.
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