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ONLY ON 3: Wrightsville Beach PD goes high tech to fight crime

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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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