Breach Inlet.jpg

Isle of Palms city staff and police are considering installing surveillance at Breach Inlet.

Surveillance on East Cooper's barrier islands is becoming more strategic by the day, primarily to regulate traffic flow or deter crime. Now, city staff and police are in discussions of keeping an eye on Breach Inlet but for less obvious reasons.

In the spring of 2014, traffic cameras were installed along the intersection of Palm Boulevard and the Isle of Palms Connector to monitor traffic flow. Front Beach also has its fair share of surveillance too. Breach Inlet, a point of access and a highly frequented area for fishing and kite surfing, has never had any surveillance in its vicinity since the Breach Inlet Bridge was built in 1956.

At the beginning of June, on IOP Police Chief Kevin Cornett's first day on the job, Public Safety Committee addressed the dangers Breach Inlet's current poses to those involved in water-related activities. Although swimming is prohibited in the area, enforced by a $1,100 fine, the consensus was that a camera would be the most responsive way to monitor the area in the event of an emergency.

Public Safety Committee chair Ryan Buckhannon clarified that the camera would face the water and not the Breach Inlet Bridge to track traffic. Cornett admitted that although the idea was initially introduced for water safety purposes, it will additionally help document potential criminal activity. However, he cautioned there is a fine line between taking protective measures and infringing on people's privacy.

"We do have to find a close balance of what's best for public interest and not invading on people who are just out having a good time," Cornett added. "We want to make sure to that we have enough cameras that would catch any potential criminal activity or anybody who may have gotten to far out (at sea) and may be in peril."

In terms of the camera itself, Captain Jeffery Swain said the city's IT personnel recommended a handheld zoom camera. This would allow staff to manually position the camera in any direction. The city's communication specialists would monitor the camera feed along with the other cameras at Front Beach.

Swain was quoted approximately $5,000 to $6,000 for the camera and installation. In addition, the camera would require a connection line and carry a monthly fee. Administrator Desiree Fragoso said the expenses could be added to the FY20 Budget and paid from tourism funds.

Cornett expressed the camera's logistics are still in an early stage. Since South Carolina Department of Transportation owns the parking lot at Breach Inlet, the city would have to get an encroachment permit to erect a structure for the installation.

The camera is still ongoing discussion by the Public Safety Committee and no proposal has been made for council to take action at this time.