A woman called the Beaufort Police Department a few weeks ago, not to report a crime but to tell authorities something just wasn't right about the two men who had knocked on her door offering yard services.
A patrol car was dispatched. An officer discovered one of the men was awaiting trial for burglary. The other had been convicted of burglary.
Police Chief Matt Clancy was confident Monday that the call prevented a crime.
"They hadn't broken any laws," he said, but if they're ever up to no good in that neighborhood, "they know there are people in that community that will call."
That's the sort of community-level vigilance that Clancy and Mayor Billy Keyserling want to encourage. They hope it might prevent crimes like the recent armed robberies of Emily's Restaurant and Wilderness Cove Apartments.
"What we need to be doing as a community is to not be inhibited," Keyserling said. "If we see something, (the police) are out there and they'll ride by."
Clancy is gathering statistics from the past year to see if there has been an increase in crime and will make them public after compiled. Whatever the case, he thinks the community is paying more attention to crimes than in the past, making this a good time to encourage neighborhood associations and business owners to meet with police.
The department once held regular meetings to educate business owners about safe practices, but they stopped because of low attendance, Clancy said. However, officers will arrange individual meetings if merchants ask.
Keyserling is encouraging residents to call either 911 in an emergency or the direct line at 843-524-2777 if they need to talk to police.
"People just say, 'Get more police officers,' and if the response times were 10 minutes, or they weren't getting messages, then that's one thing," Keyserling said. "But the response times are one, two, three minutes, and that means they are right there around the corner."
For that reason, additional officers for the department are not being considered now, he said.
Security cameras in the downtown area, however, might be up for discussion. Their value was demonstrated when security footage from a nearby bank was used to identify the suspect in the Sept. 16 robbery at Emily's.
Councilwoman Donnie Beer has pushed for cameras in public places in the past and made them a central theme of her unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2008.
Beer said she's ready to revisit the idea.
"The use of those cameras have proven themselves," she said.
"What is the first thing that the police want when a bank is robbed or someplace is robbed? They want the cameras."
City manager Scott Dadson said it has been several years since city staff looked into security cameras, so he did not know how much they would cost.
Although Beer said the city does not have a "serious" crime problem, she thinks the cameras are warranted if they prevent loss of property or life.
"I don't like having to live this way, because we lock ourselves in our houses, we lock ourselves in our cars, we lock ourselves in everything, and these criminals run free," she said.
- County planning expanded use of surveillance cameras, Aug. 1, 2012
- Fighting crime, small-town style, Sept. 3, 2006
- Police budget won't be cut, June 23, 2006