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More than 800 surveillance cameras planned for Myrtle Beach, Conway

More than 800 surveillance cameras are in Myrtle Beach, such as this unit on Ocean Boulevard.
More than 800 surveillance cameras are in Myrtle Beach, such as this unit on Ocean Boulevard. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

By the end of the year more than 800 video cameras will keep an eye on Myrtle Beach’s streets, intersections and beach accesses.

Conway officials also recently installed 25 cameras at the River City’s attractions such as Riverfront Park, the Riverwalk, Collins Park, Conway Recreation Center, Smith-Jones Recreation Center and the city’s public safety building, said Lt. Selena Small.

Myrtle Beach officials are following many larger departments by putting up surveillance cameras in the public rights-of-way, spending $2.1 million on the three-phase program, Lt. Joey Crosby said.

It’s the future of policing. Policing in general is going that way. A lot of major departments have cameras like New York and L.A. They have cameras in the inner city where they can do facial recognition with. It’s pretty incredible what the technology has enabled law enforcement to do.

Lt. Raul Denis with Horry County Police

“People see cameras on poles hopefully it will deter and help them rethink their thought process of doing something illegal,” Crosby said. “This is just us continuing to move forward with the technology that is available.”

Not many departments along the Grand Strand have gone to the lengths that Myrtle Beach has with cameras and surveillance videos. But some of them such as Conway and Horry County police have implemented the technology.

“We will be eventually outfitting every boat landing and maybe more sites as we deem them necessary,” Horry County police Lt. Raul Denis said. “They’re not cheap, but I think we are working toward that direction” of using more surveillance cameras.

Horry County officials had cameras installed at six of the county’s 28 boat landings about six months ago. State grants worth $57,000 paid for placing the cameras at Chris Anderson Landing, Red Bluff Landing, S.C. 22/U.S. 17 Interchange Landing, Reaves Ferry Landing, Enterprise Landing and Peachtree, which is where Heather Elvis’ vehicle was found after she was last seen in December 2013.

Horry County police used the camera footage to solve a vandalism incident and arrest a Georgetown man in connection with a metal fish statue, valued at $1,000, being taken, and $350 worth of damage at the landing, Denis said.

“It’s the future of policing,” Denis said. “Policing in general is going that way. A lot of major departments have cameras like New York and L.A. They have cameras in the inner city where they can do facial recognition with. It’s pretty incredible what the technology has enabled law enforcement to do.”

Other departments such as North Myrtle Beach have no plans to add cameras. Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach spokesman, said the city is focusing on other priorities.

Conway officials are monitoring their 25 security cameras on the city-owned property, Small said. The camera system and its installation cost about $40,000.

The footage can be used during criminal investigations, she said, adding that a goal of the cameras is to deter crime.

800 Surveillance cameras in Myrtle Beach

$2.1 millionAmount Myrtle Beach is spending on the cameras

Mariman Kurenbin, a Maryland resident who was visiting Myrtle Beach with her family Wednesday at the 34th Avenue North beach access where cameras looked down on the beach-goers, said she doesn’t mind the surveillance.

“We love this particular beach. I completely support it if it helps with theft and crime,” she said.

But her husband, Dmitriy Kurenbin, said he preferred less surveillance from state officials.

“We need more freedom of existence,” he said. “A lot of them are intrusive.”

In Myrtle Beach, residents living along back streets such as Chester, Flagg, Withers Drive and Withers Alley will soon see cameras on their blocks, Crosby said.

City officials reported using the cameras along Ocean Boulevard successfully during the Carolina Country Music Festival in June and Memorial Day weekend to help keep traffic moving and crowds under control. Crosby said the cameras will be closely monitored during the city’s annual Oktoberfest.

“Not only we can monitor what’s happening at those events, we can monitor traffic flow and change it immediately,” Crosby said. “We were very pleased that [the Carolina Country Music Festival] worked out well and the cameras were a major part of that.”

The feed from the cameras are live inside the Myrtle Beach dispatch center and the footage is kept for several weeks unless it is needed in an investigation or crime, Crosby said.

“We can see what’s in the area at the time of the crime,” Crosby said and noted dispatchers helped officers recently catch a man who ran from them during a traffic stop.

Rich Melski, who was visiting Myrtle Beach on Wednesday from Ontario, Canada, said he supports the cameras.

“It gives a sense of comfort,” Melski said. “We don’t bring that many valuables but little things and we don’t want them stolen from us.”

Trey Younts, an Horry County resident who has been going to the 50th Avenue North beach access for 25 years, said he’s seen the destruction thefts from a car can leave behind while people are enjoying themselves on the beach. He said he hopes the cameras deter that behavior.

“My car has never been broken into, but I know several that have and I think [the cameras] are great,” Younts said. “It’s not unusual to see a broken car window around here.”

So far, Crosby said the cameras are an asset officers will continue to learn to use.

“Cameras at the beach access is a valuable tool. We realize that the beach is a major draw and we work really hard to make it safe,” Crosby said. “This is another tool for us.”

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