By Carol Vaughn —
Onancock police and staff have been looking into measures to help address public safety concerns after several crimes were reported in town recently.
“One of the key things that we’ve been talking about are cameras in the town,” Town Manager Matt Spuck told the Town Council at its November meeting.
Security cameras that use cellular technology is likely the best option, he said.
One quote obtained was $130 per month for a camera and the cellular subscription, he said.
Staff are looking into what the range of the cameras is, Spuck said.
“Once we get the range of the cameras, then we’re going to figure out how many of them we should have, where they are going to be — and obviously we are going to have to phase this into the budget. At $130 a month, we can do a few of them now without even thinking about it. I think we should,” he said.
The police chief is working on details including camera placement, functionality, and management.
Mayor Fletcher Fosque raised the issue of privacy concerns related to having cameras in town, saying he would like to hear from residents “whether we should be doing this or not.”
“The other side of it is, they are saying there’s no police protection,” said Councilwoman Maphis Oswald.
Spuck said staff are working to create written plans, including cost summaries and other details about the cameras, which he intends to bring to the council in December.
The public will be invited to comment.
“I would be interested in how other towns have handled the privacy issues,” said Councilwoman Sarah Nock.
Spuck said he will research that.
The number needed depends on where the town wants to install the cameras, according to Spuck.
He said, according to his discussions with the police chief, the purpose is not so much specific human identification. “It’s going to be finding the exit route for where they came from, where they went,” in criminal incidents, he said.
Councilwoman Thelma Gillespie said, “Since we have been having a lot of problems in the downtown area lately, that would be our first concern, to cover that area, and then work our way even further into town.”
The town also has been advertising to hire another police officer.
Councilwoman Joy Marino, who is on the personnel committee, said she has talked with the police chief and an officer, as well as with residents with Sheriff’s Office experience, to gather suggestions about how to improve recruitment and retention of police officers.
“So we have a wealth of information here to draw from,” she said, adding she plans to meet with Spuck and Fosque to share it.
Two new officers are attending the police academy and are expected to complete it in early January, according to Spuck’s town manager report.
Spuck spoke about the project to paint the water tower, which is about mid-way through.
During the project, the tank had to be emptied and the town’s water, instead of coming from the water tower as usual, is being pumped from the well. In order to manage water pressure, pressure release valves were installed on several fire hydrants around town and may be seen releasing water at times.
“We’re trying to keep the waste of our aquifer down to an absolute minimum … So those guys are in there working as hard as they can work,” Spuck said.