Live 5 Investigates: Dozens of cameras watching over Charleston; IOP

Live 5 Investigates: Dozens of cameras watching over Charleston; IOP

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Whether you know it or not, cameras are everywhere, from the Crosstown to King Street to the beaches of the Isle of Palms.

The Charleston Police Department has 56 different cameras around the city. They started putting them up in 2008 with most on Market and King streets to watch tourists and crime.

"There have been a number of arrests that have been made, that have been observed on the cameras," Charleston Deputy Chief Tony Elder said. "There has been evidence that has been acquired by the cameras. We've captured crimes in progress."

Those crimes include anything from drug activity to the deadly punch that killed Clint Seymour last year at the corner of King and Morris streets.

The department has three people assigned to watching their cameras, usually just during high crime periods, but even when those people aren't watching, the cameras can pan and zoom automatically to make sure they don't miss anything.

"I think it's great," Craig Nelson, the owner of Proof, a bar in eyesight of the city's camera at Warren and King streets. "It's for the general welfare of the citizens."

The bar has its own cameras, but they've never had to use them. Nelson said he's glad the police are watching, too.

"I walk to my car at 3:00 in the morning every night," Nelson said. "I'm hoping that if people know they're there, they're more a deterrent that I shouldn't do that here at least. It's going to make this area or any area that they're at safer."

The cameras on the Crosstown are used to watch traffic, but are watched by the traffic department instead of police.

On Isle of Palms, the situation is a little different. The police department mainly uses cameras for traffic, which they say are needed for its busy summer months, but they've helped with police investigations.

"We've used them for solving some crimes recently where a guy was stealing credit cards off the front beach," IOP Police Chief Thomas Buckhannon said. "We saw him coming off the front beach with his bicycle and were able to track him down."

Both departments have a message to people who think the cameras are an invasion of privacy.

"Cameras are everywhere now," Buckhannon said. "People have got them with their cellphones and they carry them around now and you're being videotaped whether you know it or not."

"The intent is not to watch people. It's to watch out for people," Elder said.

The Charleston Police Department is planning to install more cameras, starting in West Ashley area. The city's camera program cost taxpayers $39,000 to operate last year. On IOP, taxpayers only paid for the cost of electricity.

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