Street cameras: WDPS’ new weapon against crime

Interim WDPS chief Kevin Lawrence | Photo: Barbara Ball

WINNSBORO – When Kevin Lawrence came on board as the interim chief of the Winnsboro Department of Public Safety last September, the city was suffering from a string of mostly unsolved drive-by shootings as well as other crimes, including homicides.

Since then, Lawrence has hired 11 new officers that he says are fully qualified, bringing the total number of officers to 23.

He says his department has also made arrests in 100 percent of the crimes that have been committed under his watch.

Lawrence attributes that success not only to his 23 officers, but also to nine new cameras that have been installed on poles around the city to help his officers keep the peace.

“The cameras were already in the works when I came,” Lawrence said. “Mr. Taylor [Winnsboro Town Manager] had proposed the cameras as a way to help us improve on finding and stopping the criminal activity that was happening in Winnsboro.

“We can’t be everywhere, but now we have a more watchful eye on the streets,” he said. “After I got here and we got the cameras up, they’ve been a tremendous help in different ways – solving serious crimes, finding out who’s at fault in vehicle crashes, even shoplifting.”

One of nine cameras in the town

Lawrence said the cameras keep an eye on where criminals are at certain times.

“When a suspect tells us they were not at the scene of a particular crime, if there’s a camera in the area, we can check it to see who was there – the people, the cars, the tags, everything,” Lawrence said. “Just getting some of that general information, we’ve solved several crimes in the city, even an attempted murder.”

He said some criminals have been caught on multiple cameras.

“One camera picked up someone on the way to a crime scene on Highway 321, and then another camera picked that person up later, breaking in at the crime scene,” Lawrence said. “Some of the cameras can even pick up license plates.”

Lawrence said the cameras were installed based on areas where there is a lot of crime or a lot of vehicle accidents.

He said the cameras have been especially helpful at the intersection of Hwy 321 and Moultrie, across from McDonald’s restaurant, where the city’s largest number of accidents occur.

Lawrence said he is only about three officers away from having a full staff of highly qualified officers.

 “We have a pool of qualified applicants who are wanting to work here,” he said, “so we should have a full staff soon.”

Lawrence said that once that happens, his next goal is to work on ways to get his officers out into the community, to visit regularly with residents and businesses.

“We want to regain the trust of the community,” he said, “to work with them, get to know them, and let them know we’re here for them.”

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