Chief Gardner wants more cameras eyeing the city

  • Friday, January 31, 2014

Scott Harper/Times One of the manny camera boxes installed at the Georgetown Housing Authority recently.

If Georgetown Police Chief Paul Gardner gets what he wants, by 2019 there will be very few places a person will be able to go outside in the city where they will not be watched by surveillance cameras.

The process of securing the city with cameras actually began a few years ago with the installation of the devices on the business portion of Front Street, at East Bay Park and other areas, including at the corner of Front Street and Highway 17 and Front Street and Meriman Road.

Earlier this month, 70 cameras were installed at the Georgetown Housing Authority property off of Anthuam Maybank Drive and in Maryville.

“We want to continue to build the city’s camera network,” Gardner told Georgetown City Council at its Capital Improvements retreat last weekend.

He said he has budgeted for eight cameras to be purchased each year for the next five years.

The Housing Authority cameras were paid for with a federal Capital Improvement Funds grant, Gardner said.

Gardner said the next area he would like to see cameras installed is along the Harborwalk boardwalk and at Ben Cooper Park in Georgetown’s West End where a splash pad water attraction is being constructed.

He said Ben Cooper Park could be adequately covered with four cameras.

With all the cameras that are already in place, Gardner has come up with a plan to keep an eye on what the cameras are seeing. He wants to create a “command center” within the police department and have “citizen volunteers” man the center to watch the camera feeds on a wall of monitors.

He said the volunteers would be used mainly on weekends and other high priority times.

“We learned from the Maryville incidents we have citizens who would step up and help,” Gardner said, referring to a string of burglaries that occurred last year.

This system, Gardner said, is working effectively in Columbia.

The volunteers would have to go through a “light” background check and would be required to sign a confidentiality agreement indicating anything they see on the cameras would remain within the police department.

Along with the surveillance cameras, Gardner would also like to purchase a portable license plate reader, although he admitted this is on his “Santa” list. He does not have the $28,000 purchase in his budget until 2018.

The camera would be on a trailer and would read license plates and immediately check to see if they are on a stolen vehicle or registered to a wanted person.

The camera could be placed in neighborhoods where crimes are taking place so police would have a record of anyone who had been in that area.

“I hope to pay for the cameras just about any way I can. The first ones we installed were paid out of the general fund,” he said.

Accommodations and Hospitality taxes can be used for cameras in areas associated with tourism.

“I am a technology guy. This will make the department smarter and will reduce costs,” Gardner said.

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