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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Wrightsville Beach police are turning to technology to target criminals. Officers are equipped with personal body cameras and automated license plate recognition systems, looking for anyone who may be breaking the law. But is it all too extreme for a small beach town?

“It’s a little overdone, because it kinda makes you fearful, like what are they looking for?” Wrightsville Beach visitor Cathy Schlappich said.

Schlappich goes to Wrightsville Beach to rest and relax. She says it’s alarming to know the police department has the need for high-tech gadgets to help catch criminals.

“It just makes me think we should fear something if they’re that into the technology,” she said.

Police Chief Dan House says major felonies are not common in the town with the most serious of crimes commonly being larceny and burglary. Still, in a ride around town you can find a police cruisers equipped with smart devices like a mobile automated license plate recognition system. The $16,000 system is used to read a plate and run the information through several databases.

“If the vehicle is entered in as a person who’s wanted, a stolen vehicle or anything like that tied to a vehicle, it will pick it up,” House said.

Each officer is also equipped with an $800 personal body camera. Chief House says last summer the cameras helped lead to more than 1,700 civil citations, such as open containers of alcohol on the beach.

“It’s not only to just monitor what happens in the field, but it’s also a deterrent,” Chief House said. “We tell our officers when they’re dealing with people and they’re acting up to let them know they’re being photographed.”

A small business owner told us off camera he thinks the purchases are ridiculous and deter visitors, but Chief House says his department is just trying to make the town safer.

“We want people to enjoy themselves and not be plagued by petty crime,” he said.

Chief House says the equipment was funded by a port security grant.

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16 Comments on "ONLY ON 3: Wrightsville Beach PD goes high tech to fight crime"

2015 years 10 months ago

Seriously, what made this guy the choice for Wrightsville Beach? Lets look at what and where he comes from. He was a CAMPUS COP. We all know how much crime occurs on a campus. So to him sure, Alcohol violations and an occasional Dog on the Beach is major crime, look at what he said there are very rarely felonies and the largest crimes are normally larceny or burglary, he is clueless. There were so many better choices that were available over this guy. I think we all know why he was the “winner” for the town. He is YES MAN, anything the board of alderman or the word or complaint of just ONE WB resident leads him to a reaction to in the eyes of that complainr help or change something. Seriously, you are the chief at Wrightsville Beach, a step up from a campus yes but not a whole lot different.

– Looks to me like there is a lot of waste going on there. There is no Port Security Grant that bought those cameras, the town bought them. The only agencies in this county recieving any port security grants are Wilmington Police and the Sheriffs Department. Please show us proof that these were obtained through a port security grant, I really want to see that. Prove you are not a liar !!! I agree with the business owner a waste of money.

– As far as the License Plate reading machine, why do you feel the need to broadcast that. Wilmington has had that and doesnt brag about it. Looks to me like good ol Chief House just wants to be seen and heard on tv. You never heard or saw the old chief from Wrightsville Beach on tv, for that matter how often do you see the Wilmington Chief or for that matter comparing beaches Carolina Beach police chief, NEVER. This guy just likes to see himself and hear himself on tv. He probably has tapes and sends to all his friends.

– This guy is a joke, yeah there are the two officers still working that he wanted to get rid of, but the majority of the other officers there are good. I have been arrested by them before and can still respect them. Give those guys a chance, they deserve it look at what they are dealing with.

2015 years 10 months ago

It will be so crowded there this summer no one will go!

2015 years 10 months ago

(I find Wb’s attitude so offensive, I just couldn’t resist re-posting something I wrote back on 11/10/2012. I think of it as the WB the very near future)

As I drove past the twin laser cannons protecting the bridge, an automatic lane fence shunted me into the “T” (for TemporaryVisitor) lane which led up to the checkpoint guardhouse. “Sorry”, said the man behind the 2″ thick plexiglass wall, “our license scanner / computer system just said that you once got a C- in a Civics class. Can’t be having punks like you mixing with our elite residents.” “Check your files, I fixed that with a make-up exam 18 years ago” I replied. “Hmm … OK, missed that, move to Station 2”.

The storm trooper at Station 2 affixed the standard 12″ “T” to my car and handed me the 12″ red letter “T” that must be attached to all visitors’ clothing. “Remember, if you’re going swimming, the lifeguards will have to spray a red “T” onto your back that can be seen if your shirt is off. They all wear inflatable body armor, so they’ll be easy to spot” he said.

After driving around for two hours, I finally found a great place to park only a 20 minute walk from the beach. Usually, I’m not so lucky. On the walk to the beach, only 3 different troopers stopped and body scanned me for cigarettes so it was shorter walk than usual. “Remember TemporaryVisitor (they call all non-residents that), we now all wear personal body cameras, so you better not cause trouble!” snarled the last trooper.

Having now spent 30 minutes on the actual beach in the section allocated for TemporaryVisitors, I found that my nerves we’re completely shot. Not sure if it was the armed guards with their new personal body cameras around our perimeter or the sound of occasional nervous stifled sobs from some of my fellow “T’s” as they were accosted every time one of the guards came rushing up to them to see if the pop of a soda can was actually a beer or some other horribly criminal beverage, but I just had to leave. Two body scans and one “T” lane shunting later, I was safely back on the mainland.

Safely arriving home, I completely lost it once behind closed doors. Next thing I remember, there I was yet once again swilling down cheap synthetic tequila until I passed out in a drunken disgusting heap on my living room floor.

Y’know, I really love the beach, but I just don’t think I can do this anymore. The subsequent hangovers are just becoming too painful a price for 30 minutes of butt-free, terrorist-free beach time pleasure!

2015 years 10 months ago

Will these extreme security measures help bring Wrightsville Beach’s renegade police officers and drug-dealing garbage men under control?

Guest Reply
2015 years 10 months ago

That’s OK…the parking meter increases will pay for their Star Trek toys…have no fear.
Oh yeah, that’s right…parking meters need to be ramped up in fees!!
When at Cat #3 or 4 hurricane comes crashing down in WB…they will want your money…and mine, all the while :-)
Hey…a new reality TV show…”Wrightsville Beach Protected”! Except it will come on 4:00 in the morning…HA!

2015 years 10 months ago

Sounds like some of you people have something to hide.Do you not realize how many times a day your recorded on camera,if you leave your house in town.It’s a fact that people who know that they are on camera behave more civil,works the same way with the officers,they know they will have to be more professional.This will also cut down on the he said one thing ,and the other party said another.No Im not from the beach but do enjoy going during the summer.With all the different types of people from all over the country and the world they deal with seems like agood idea to me.If you want to complain about something,try the parking rates,not them keeping you safe.Think of it like this,when someone comes to your house if they cant be respectful,do you want them there.

2015 years 10 months ago

When someone comes to your house, and they haven’t done anything disrespectful, should you overtly disrespect them by running a background check and taking photos of them? I don’t think so, Gestapo Agent GuestX. I would guess you would have been perfectly comfortable in the late 1930’s in Germany. That’s what the Germans were doing (except for the new high tech gadgets, which make it even more invasive, that is).

2015 years 10 months ago

Hi tweety.

2015 years 10 months ago

Sounds to me like the tourist town hired a want to be CSI agent instead of a small time, laid back, vacation site, next he will be hitting up the Department Of Homeland Security for troop carriers, swat vehicles, 3 motored boats with 50 caliber guns front and rear, and who knows what else, gee Chief, set back, take a deep breath, we are not the enemy, for Pete’s sake, a couple on vacation do not need a felony wrap for having a beer or 2 on the beach! that is what they came here for after all, VACATION!!!

Government Mule
2015 years 10 months ago

Wrightsville Beach is the most dangerous place in America. Or so it seems from this article and actions of the Wrightsville Beach Police Department. 1,700 civil citations, like open containers! Out of control. What kind of horrible person would even want to drink a beer outside of a structure at the beach? These kind of dangerous lunatics must be rounded up, at any cost and embarrassed, fined, punished etc. Next, one of these Wrighstville beach violators will want to pull out a tobacco product and then light it, right in front of other people. Pure madness. Arrest these social libertines! Stop these people at all cost to the taxpayer. I will never go to Wrightsville Beach again. Wrightsville Beach dangerous! Wrightsville Beach is so dangerous that the police department feels it needs to install a $16,000 mobile automated license plate recognition system in each Wrightsville Beach police department vehicle. Good sheeple. Comply, conform. Resistance is futile.

2015 years 10 months ago

They are scared that crime may come to their little beach town.

2015 years 10 months ago

Still trying to find ways to deter the “great unwashed” from coming to their beach, it seems.

2015 years 10 months ago

These devices are likely less crime deterrent tool and more CYA on the part of the department. The chief still has two wild card officers on his hands that he attempted to rid himself of last year – both liked to an unprovoked brutality case, both going rouge by leaving their jurisdiction to make an arrest, both caught lying in court, both think they’re rambo understudies. Then there’s the two resignations in lieu of firing in the past year. One for DUI and the other, well we’ll never know. Most are top of the line but there are the few that like to use the excuse of “there was no tape” to cover their shady ways even though there’s a camera rolling in every car. Hopefully these body cameras will put a stop to that…until they figure out a good excuse to disable or lose them. Keep trying Chief House. We support your efforts in flushing out the unsavories and getting some fresh friendly faces in the department.

2015 years 10 months ago

This is way too extreme. If crime is of that much concern in Wrightsville Beach, it sounds like a good place to avoid altogether.

2015 years 10 months ago

Whatever happened to using you eyes and mind? You have a laptop right there. WB is ridiculous. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

2015 years 10 months ago

Not too many years ago, when the cold war was still active, when the Iron Curtain was a phrase we were all familiar with, we used to joke about those countries’ totalitarian police policies. “Do you haff your papers?” we would jokingly say as a mockery of their over-the-top police procedures. Who would have thought that in today’s world a small, peaceful beach town would be emulating that sort of sick behavior? Who would have thought that a small town’s population would become this twisted?

License plate scanners that run a background check on everybody that comes onto or leaves WB, body cameras that film everything that anybody ever does down to the most microscopic of infractions ….. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound like my vision of America.

Let’s talk about funding for a moment. ….. “Chief House says the equipment was funded by a port security grant.” Really? What port are they protecting? I’ve been to WB on more than one occasion and I can’t seem to recall any port there. What a load of male-bovine-fecal-waste! And the worst part of all this is even as WB is being police-state invasive in our lives (if one is stupid enough to go there; of course), they’re using our tax dollars to perpetuate their message of exclusiveness.

There’s a simple way to vote against this type of police-state tyranny. Don’t go there. I stopped going there for both personal and professional reasons ever since this crap started and will never return. Respect yourself enough to not tolerate others not respecting you. There are plenty of other beach towns that still respect you. Spend your money there.
The residents of WB should be ashamed, very ashamed. Apparently, they’re not though, otherwise they would have stopped this kind of police-state activity from happening in the first place. Wrightsville Beach: Now an island of shame.


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