TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. — City officials on Tybee Island want to know more about the tourists who visit Georgia’s largest public beach, and they plan to spend nearly $29,000 on a pair of computer-linked cameras designed to read and record the license plate of every car and truck that comes and goes on the island.
"What makes Tybee Island appear to be an unusual candidate for scanners is that the beach community has little crime. Police reported four violent crimes, all aggravated assaults, last year and zero violent crimes in 2011, according to local crime statistics reported to the FBI. Property crimes on Tybee Island totaled 115 last year, almost all of them thefts.
Right now, it’s unclear whether police Chief Robert Bryson and his officers will even get to use the scanners to help fight crime. So far, the only use approved by the mayor and council is to study tourism patterns.
"I get why people are concerned about it," Mayor Jason Buelterman said. "When the government knows when they arrive somewhere or when they’re leaving, they get the feeling government is tracking them. But that’s not the purpose at all."
The driving reason for investing in the scanners, Buelterman said, is to collect data to help a local professor studying tourist activity and spending on the island. Michael Toma, an economist at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, wants reliable information on how many cars come to Tybee Island. But the type of electronic car counter currently being used — resembling a black garden hose stretched across the highway as it registers cars rolling over it — keeps breaking, the mayor said.”
"I GET WHY PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IT."
"THEY GET THE FEELING THE GOVERNMENT IS TRACKING THEM."
"BUT THAT’S NOT THE PURPOSE AT ALL."
"I get why you are concerned. You feel like I blew up your house when I poured gas all over it and tossed a lit match on your porch. But that’s not the purpose at all."
"I get why you are concerned. You feel like I killed your dog when I ran over it with my car and backed up over it again. But that’s not the purpose at all."
"I get why you are concerned. You feel like I robbed you when I pointed a gun at you and took all your money. But that’s not the purpose at all."
Our mayor’s daughter is the city manager for Tybee.