Big Brother Goes to the Beach

The Tybee Island city council has voted to install license plate readers at the only access point to the island.

The Savannah Morning News reported that the cameras will first be used to track visitors to the coastal island for tourism studies. The council required that city officials create a policy about how the data are used and stored before law enforcement officials can use the system.

That’s how it always begins… so innocently…


  1. xdog says:

    You know many cops already have license plate readers installed in their cruisers, don’t you? And they can use them to look up information about you like where you live, what you look like, what your driving history is? It may not be comfortable but it ain’t tyranny.

  2. Ellynn says:

    If you ever had to deal with the drunks arriving or leaving the island on US 80, for Tybeefest, Pirate Fest, Orange Crush, the Sand Castle contest or Memorial Day weekend – you would be saying, “about time”.

    • Noway says:

      Then arrest the drunks, Ellynn. The state continues to invade our privacy bit by bit. If you want to know how many people come and go from the island put one of those rubber hoses that registers a number when a car rolls over it. Continued monitoring of American citizens, whether it be by the NSA or some dorfwad in Tybee Island gov’t, is unacceptable.

      • zedsmith says:

        somehow compelling people to blow the contents of their lungs while they’re driving on public roads isn’t an invasion of privacy, but scanning license plates on the same public roads for people with felony warrants is the jackboot of the police state.


        • benevolus says:

          Yes, both may be true.
          Presumably they don’t ask you to blow without some suspicion of wrongdoing- you know, weaving, whatever.
          But with this we get close to having to show ID on demand, which has led to bad things in the past.

          • Ellynn says:

            Tybee already sets up check points at the base on the lone bridge off the island 4 to 8 times a year. A few Friday and Saturday nights have I sat in line up to 30 minutes to hand over my ID (on demand), along with with my paper work, the ID of my passangers, and a few times there was this nice doggie and his trainer sniffing around, while they run my name for about two minutes or so through their databases and then let me drive down the two lane death trap knows as U.S 80.

  3. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    I know that most readers of this blog won’t agree with me but I often think such scanners should be installed at state park entrances/exits. It might have prevented at least one brutal murder of a young woman just a few years ago. I often think of her as I visit our beautiful parks and still can’t bring myself to go to Vogel.

  4. Bill Dawers says:

    I think there is a considerable difference between such cameras being installed in cruisers that obviously don’t have set patterns or even being installed at government installations (including state parks) and what we see in this case. There is only one way on and off Tybee by car, so every single trip by car — by a Tybee resident, by a tourist, by a daytime beachgoer — will be recorded, 24/7.

    Tybee has no stated policy for how this data will be handled, kept, stored, etc. A lawyer I’ve spoken with disagrees with me, but I think that this use of cameras might fall under the recent ruling by the Ga. Supreme Court on improper use of road blocks.

    I’d say the citizen response to this is running pretty overwhelmingly against the policy, at least based on the information that we have right now. I blogged a bit about it:

  5. Jon Lester says:

    Sure, there’s ominous potential, but Tybee Island remains a rare place where the police are cooler people than many of the locals. Just watch your speed going in and out.

  6. S. Lee Guy says:

    It’s not the first time this has been considered. Alpharetta and I think Sandy Springs also thought about adding similar scanners to busy intersections near GA-400. Don’t think they ever had them installed though.

    Police departments would keep a database with the tag data including date, time and location. These databases are subject to open records requests, which is what the privacy wonks worry about.

  7. xdog says:

    I don’t mean to make light of civil liberties issues but truthfully I don’t see the problem here. License #ABC1234 is either on Tybee or off. License #XYZ9876 has been on the island 3 times in the past year. That’s the only intelligence I can see being gathered.

    If you think islanders could find better uses for their $29K, I might agree. If you want to take the cops’ taser toys away from them I’m more than fine with that. But someone will have to show me what injury, real or potential, exists before I get all exercised about a scanner.

    PS–I bet if they came up with a scheme to let the locals pass without logging them, there wouldn’t be any fuss at all.

  8. seenbetrdayz says:

    I wonder which way the cameras will face.

    They’ll get more footage if they turn them facing going out of Tybee, what with all the people who eventually get fed up with having 3 miles of 2 lane highway moving 5 miles per hour only to arrive at Tybee and realize there’s no place to park. Those who just say “#*%^ it, there’s gotta be another beach somewhere along the GA coast.”

    Tybee island reminds me of my time in college, when caravans of cars would follow the same route around the parking lot only to realize that there’s no vacant spots, and people would end up parking on the grass in a desperate bid to make it to class on time, and get ticketed for it by the rent-a-cops.

    I think eventually America will end up like Great Britain, where there are camera-trees on every corner, which are only good for watching crimes take place, but do little for the victims in the process.

  9. saltycracker says:

    For entertainment Tybee should post on its website the City of Savannah/Chatham Co vehicles hittin’ the beach spots.
    Throw in ticket revenue from uninsured vehicles, also.

  10. Noway says:

    Wouldn’t it be entertaining to put a couple of PIs on the members of the TI city council, follow them around for a couple of weeks, see where they go, who they talk to, etc. Put the findings on the internet. You’d see howling from the rooftops about their “privacy.” What’s good for the goose….

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