Board approves new cameras for downtown Wrightsville Beach, town hall

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By Hannah Leyva

Contributing Writer

As part of an ongoing effort to ensure safety in popular areas of Wrightsville Beach, seven new surveillance cameras will be installed in three areas of heavy traffic.

At the Thursday meeting,  the town board of aldermen approved the project and authorized $55,000, including the installation fee and one year of maintenance,  from the town’s general fund balance.

One of these areas is downtown, where a node with four camera heads looking in different directions will be installed at the intersection of Waynick Boulevard and Causeway Drive. According to Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House, a surveillance device at that particular intersection has been on their wish list.

“We had a hit-and-run incident there last year where a pedestrian was struck,” House said. “We were able to eventually solve the case with good police work, but if we had had cameras there, it would have taken us 10 minutes to find the guy.”

Two cameras, including one with pan-tilt-zoom, will also be installed at the intersection of Jack Parker Boulevard and South Lumina Avenue in the south end of town. With the new devices, law enforcement would be better able to monitor traffic and congestion and potentially deter people from committing crimes in the popular area.

The last four cameras in this phase will be placed at the Wrightsville Beach Town Hall Complex. One will be installed inside the main entrance to monitor the front desk. Two more will be placed outside to monitor outdoor activity.

The final one will be installed on a tower on top of the building. This pan-tilt-zoom camera, according to the town, will have the ability to monitor bridge activity in both directions. With the new camera, police will be able to see many defining details about vehicles involved in incidents, including the color and make and model. However, smaller tags, such as those on motorcycles, might not be seen clearly.

One other drawback to the cameras is that they will not be able to record sound, which could be helpful in cases where officers are called to investigate noise complaints.

“They can tell whether or not a crowd is coming up or down a street,”  House said, “But they can’t tell whether they’re noisy or not.”

The set of seven cameras, some of which will be powered by solar energy, will add to the roughly dozen or so that currently make up the town’s public surveillance system. According to Town Manager Tim Owens, several cameras are already in place along Salisbury Street and on Stone Street downtown, and others are set up at public works facilities. A previous expansion of the system also included camera installations at the parking lot and bathroom facilities near the Oceanic Restaurant.

“This camera project is nothing new,” said House, who said surveillance devices were first installed nearly a decade ago due to vandalism problems. “This is part of an effort to get cameras installed all along the Loop for safety reasons.”

While the project was not included in last year’s budget, Mayor Bill Blair suggested looking to include it in future budgets as the town looks to continue to expand and maintain their surveillance system.

No timeline has yet been set for installation.

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