Cameras help catch sex offenders

  • Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eileen Keithly/For South Strand News Pawleys Island Police Chief Mike Fanning looks through some of the photos of license plates taken by the cameras on the North and South Causeways.

Photos

Surveillance cameras on the North and South Causeways of Pawleys Island are turning out to be highly successful crime-fighting tools.

Lester Roy Beckett was not counting on the cameras to read his license plate when he entered the island in April and allegedly exposed himself to a young girl riding her bike.

The 73-year-old was already on the state’s sex offender registry.

After the young girl described Beckett’s vehicle, Pawleys Island Police Chief Mike Fanning used the license plate cameras to get the license tag number of the man’s truck and notify area law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the vehicle.

“The cameras definitely played a major role in this case.” Fanning said.

Just over 48 hours later, Beckett was arrested by Horry County law enforcement officers in Conway. The man also was charged with failing to register his vehicle. If he had, Fanning said, the camera system would have alerted police when the man drove on the island.

As it was, “without the system, the man probably would not have been caught,” Fanning said.

In May, the cameras assisted in the arrest of Patrick M. Krell in Deland, Fla. Krell allegedly exposed himself to two young girls at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet.

Fanning and his officers once again turned to their cameras to identify Krell’s vehicle, after he had been on Pawleys Island and had been issued a speeding ticket.

The officer who issued the ticket recognized Krell’s mug shot and went straight to the cameras to assist in providing a detailed picture of his vehicle and license plate. Krell was arrested shortly after Fanning’s office provided information to law enforcement agencies regarding Krell’s vehicle.

“These cameras are doing exactly what we hoped that they would do … provide us with a couple of extra sets of eyes, to better protect the people of this community,” Fanning said.

Thieves need to beware as well.

Recently, Lauren Poston and Christopher McClendon allegedly stole a kayak, according to police, but only made it as far as Dick’s Pawn Shop before they were apprehended.

“It was a little hard to miss a Plymouth Breeze with a kayak jammed in the trunk driving across the causeway,” Fanning said.

Officers recovered the kayak and arrested Poston and McClendon.

Area residents don’t seem to mind the cameras that they once thought would be an invasion of their privacy.

“I don’t mind them at all,” resident Doris Gleason said. “I have never thought they invaded my privacy.”

Gleason was glad to hear the police department was having great success with the cameras.

“I never feel unsafe here, but having an extra set of eyes can’t hurt.”

Fanning doesn’t want the community to feel like “Big Brother” is watching them. “ We use them for a variety of things,” he said, pointing out that the cameras can help locate an Alzheimer’s patient, identify stolen tags, alert police to possible gang activity, terrorist activity, and of course the already proven capability of identifying sex offenders.

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