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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.

Comment on this Story

  • YogiBerra

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

  • WBguest

    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.

  • ChefnSurf

    (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!

  • Guest Reply

    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!

  • windy

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

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