By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The decorative, black light poles lining Sea Isle City’s oceanfront Promenade all seem identical – except for one.
A closer look at one pole at the beach end of John F. Kennedy Boulevard reveals a surveillance camera attached to it and the words “Gridless Sentry.”
Capt. Anthony Garreffi, the officer in charge of the Sea Isle Police Department, said the camera is serving as a “trial” for a possible surveillance system that may be installed on the Promenade in coming months.
“We will be working toward getting a surveillance system in place by the summer season, but we are still in the beginning stages. This particular camera is just a temporary trial and will actually be removed soon in the next week or two,” Garreffi said Friday in an email.
Sea Isle officials are considering high-tech surveillance systems to allow the police department to keep an eye on the Promenade, especially when the popular walkway is crowded with visitors during the bustling summer tourism season and there are concerns about rowdy teenagers causing trouble at night.
“This is just the next step in law enforcement. It’s the city keeping up with technology. This is on the police department’s agenda to keep up with technology,” Sea Isle spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
Custer stressed that plans for a new surveillance system are still in the early stages. She noted that the city has not yet decided on how many cameras would be installed, exactly where they would be located along the Promenade and how much they would cost.
“They’re doing the due diligence before making any decisions,” she said.
Like other shore towns, Sea Isle dealt with an outbreak of rowdy teens who disrupted parts of the 2021 summer vacation season with foul language, underage drinking, vandalism and theft.
Sea Isle responded by increasing the number of police patrols on the Promenade and closing off the pathways to the beach at 10 p.m. to prevent large groups of teens from gathering together late at night.
Surveillance cameras strategically located along the Promenade and linked to the police department would give police another tool to prevent groups of teens from creating trouble.
“Public safety is always a No. 1 priority for Sea Isle’s public employees,” Custer said.
Although the city has not yet selected the exact locations for new surveillance cameras, Custer said they would be placed at the “most advantageous areas of the Promenade.”
She noted that the city also plans to install a surveillance camera at the municipal playground area on John F. Kennedy Boulevard, another popular place for teens.
For the past five years, Sea Isle officials have been discussing the possibility of adding surveillance cameras to the Promenade as well as sprucing it up by installing more attractive lighting.
The first step was taken in 2020 when new light poles reminiscent of Victorian-style lamps were placed on the Promenade between 35th and 44th streets at a cost of $843,000.
The new lights have brightened up the Promenade, added some visual pop and enhanced safety. They replaced some utilitarian-looking “cobra-head” lights that loomed over the Promenade for decades.
The decorative lights between 35th and 44th streets are the first phase of a more extensive relighting of the Promenade that will eventually stretch the entire length of the walkway from 29th to 57th streets, city officials say.