Bluffton police unveil Old Town security camera network

The Bluffton Police Department now has its eyes trained more closely on Old Town.

The department unveiled on Tuesday a network of 22 security cameras, placed strategically throughout the historic district, during a grand opening celebration for its new Old Town substation on May River Road.

The cameras, situated 10 to 15 feet high on light poles, cost about $100,000 to purchase and install, police chief Joey Reynolds said. They can be found primarily along May River Road and Calhoun Street. They run as far west as Pin Oak Street, as far east as Boundary Street and at two southern locations along the May River — by the Church of the Cross on Calhoun Street and at Oyster Factory Park on Wharf Street.

Charlotte-based WildFire Camera Networks installed the high-speed cameras which engineer Kevin Bourgoin said are capable of tilting, panning, zooming and slowly scanning 360 degrees.

The cameras will record on a 10-day loop, and the footage from them will be filtered back to a single wireless network, which officers can view from police headquarters, inside their cars or on their phones.

As of Tuesday, about 15 of the cameras had been installed, with the rest planned to be installed by the end of this week, Bourgoin said.

Town Council identified public safety cameras as a top priority at a strategic planning session last year.

Reynolds said the cameras will enhance public safety by deterring crime, providing police with possible evidence during criminal investigations and allowing them to closely monitor crowds at festivals and special events.

Reynolds said most residents and businesses in Old Town have embraced the idea of security cameras.

“We hope everyone will get behind it,” he said. “The only real concern we’ve heard so far is the issue of privacy and ‘Big Brother,’ but we want people to understand these cameras aren’t capable of zooming in anywhere that isn’t in the public realm. We are focused on the streets, and we want people to know where they are.”

The Old Town network is just the first phase of the department’s planned camera system. Reynolds said the department has a couple of other spots in town it has in mind for the next installations, but declined to say where specifically.

Reynolds said the department is also considering eventually allowing residential neighborhoods with homeowners associations to hook their camera systems into the network.