When the City of Georgetown’s Christmas tree at Francis Marion Park was vandalized earlier this month, investigators knew exactly where to look to try to find the culprit.
They reviewed video from a city-owned camera located across Front Street that is pointed at the park. They saw four people walk up to the tree in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 5. One of them — a 22-year-old Prince Street man — jumped into the tree and started “thrashing about,” the report states.
The other three were laughing at the man’s actions but he was the only one who damaged the tree. It cost the city about $500 to replace the damaged lights.
Georgetown Police Chief Paul Gardner said because of the camera, police were able to make a positive identification on the suspect who has been charged with malicious injury to real property.
He said the city’s cameras on Front Street have been successful in helping solve crimes so more of the devices will soon be installed in other areas of the city.
He said $24,000 has been allocated from a Community Development Block grant that is being used to purchase eight new cameras.
They will be placed at the intersection of Front Street and Highway 17 as well as the intersection of Merriman Road and Highmarket Street.
Gardner said when funding was put in place for the beautification of the western portion of Front Street, part of the funds were designated for camera purchases.
He said the cameras will be able to record what is happening in all directions. Those two locations were chosen for investigative purposes not to monitor traffic laws.
“We use the cameras as a starting point in investigations,” Gardner said, adding if an incident occurs the is a very good chance someone involved will pass one of those intersections and will be on the video.
Gardner said as the budget allows, he would like more cameras to be purchased and installed in other parts of the city.
He said the Georgetown Housing Authority is undergoing major renovations and, as part of that project, 60 cameras will be installed all around the property.
“We will have access to those cameras,” Gardner said.
He said he wants the city to get to the point where there are so many cameras someone will need to be hired to watch the monitors and alert police when they see anything going on that needs attention.
“Having all these extra eyes in the city leads to us being smarter. Everything we do has to be about reducing crime,” Gardner said.
The new cameras are expected to be installed before the end of January.
By Scott Harper
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