Security cameras will be installed at Islanders Beach Park on Hilton Head Island as the town tries to stem a rise in vehicle break-ins there over the past six months.
The town intends to install 16 security cameras next month to monitor most of the park's 200-some parking spaces, according to director of administrative services Tom Fultz. At least one camera will be pointed to catch the license plate number of all vehicles entering and exiting the parking lot at 94 Folly Field Road, he said.
The town began placing security cameras at Chaplin Park in 2007 after a rash of "smash-and-grab" robberies to vehicles parked there. Since then, the town has spent about $500,000 to install more than 200 cameras in its parks.
"They are a deterrent, and statistics have shown a significant decrease in activity where these cameras are positioned," Fultz said. "And they provide an invaluable assistance as an investigative tool."
Town Council budgeted about $100,000 this year to install more cameras. Installation at Islanders Beach Park is expected to cost about $35,000, Fultz said.
Twenty-three burglaries and thefts were reported in the Folly Field area during the last half of 2010, more than usual, according to statistics from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office. Five burglaries and thefts were reported in the area for the first half of 2010. Figures from 2009 were not readily available.
Previous statistics didn't indicate a need for cameras at the park, Fultz said, but now they do.
"As we install cameras, activity subsides in that area and shifts to other areas," he said. "Over the next year, we'll work in coordination with the Sheriff's Office to see if their statistics warrant installation of cameras at other sites."
Town staff monitors the cameras daily via a secure website, to ensure they are working and to assess property damage from storms or vandalism. However, they are not watched constantly, Fultz said. Footage is viewed only if there has been a report of criminal activity and might be shown to the public to help identify suspects or vehicles, he said.
Some locations, such as the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn and the Island Recreation Center, have cameras with motion detectors that will trigger a spotlight and send an alert to a sheriff deputy's cell phone should it detect movement after regular business hours, Fultz said.
Crime was up slightly on the island in the last quarter of 2010, compared to the same period in 2009, 2008 and 2007.
The numbers were presented to the Town Council's Public Safety Committee Feb. 7.
A total of 38 aggravated assaults, robberies, rapes and one murder were reported on the island during the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 36 for the same period in 2009. A total of 393 burglaries and thefts were recorded for the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 358 during the same period in 2009.
That's less than the 499 burglaries and thefts recorded for the third quarter of 2010.
More criminals are breaking into vehicles, but investigators are making arrests and generating helpful leads from video surveillance at parks, Fultz said.
At least seven arrests have been made as a result of footage from island security cameras since they've been installed, according to the Sheriff's Office.
An attempt Monday to reach Sheriff P.J. Tanner for comment was unsuccessful.