After teen vanishes, Myrtle Beach expands surveillance

Big Brother will be taking an extended vacation in Myrtle Beach to keep tabs on more public places.

The City of Myrtle Beach confirmed to NewsChannel 15 this week plans of a new pilot program designed to provide more surveillance cameras.

"We have about 20 cameras in various locations, high-traffic locations in the city," said Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea.

Kruea said a few cameras have been in place for several years, but the city's IT manager said those were grainy and ran on old infrastructure.

The new cameras offer a better quality image and run on real-time technology, IT Manager Brian Gause said.

Gause said the idea to expand coverage came as a request from police after Brittanee Drexel vanished from Ocean Boulevard on April 25, 2009.

Police think the 17-year-old spring breaker was snatched from an area near the BlueWater Resort on 20th Avenue South.

The surveillance cameras available at the time caught a grainy image of the teen walking on the sidewalk before she disappeared.

If additional city-captured surveillance exists, it was never released to the media.

"Following that (Drexel's disappearance) ... they (police) said 'gee, we would like to have greater coverage,'" Kruea said.

In the past few months, the IT department has installed about 15 new cameras mainly along the new boardwalk and Ocean Boulevard from 8th to 14th Avenues North.

As time goes on and as money becomes available, the city hopes to install cameras for the entire length of the boardwalk and eventually for all of Ocean Boulevard.

Kruea said the cameras are an added layer of security and a tool to gauge crowds during big events. It's not, he said, an invasion of privacy.

"You really shouldn't have any expectation of privacy in a public place," Kruea said, and acknowledged, "Big Brother is watching ... be advised that somebody may see what you're doing in public places."

If there are people who are concerned about privacy, they weren't vocal about the issue when this reporter was asking people along the boardwalk.

"I'm glad somebody's keeping an eye on me," said one visitor down from New York.

"I think the only people that will be concerned about being an invasion of privacy is if they are out here doing something they are not supposed to be doing," said another visitor, Patrick Durham.