OCEAN CITY – Connectivity issues highlighted a discussion this week on the installation of surveillance cameras along a busy downtown thoroughfare.
On Monday, City Engineer Terry McGean presented the Ocean City Police Commission with an update on the installation of City Watch cameras on Baltimore Avenue.
“We’ve got the Boardwalk fully covered,” he told commission members this week. “The next highest priority area for the department to try and get coverage on is Baltimore Avenue. The challenge for us with these cameras is connectivity.”
In 2014, the town developed its City Watch surveillance camera system beginning with a handful of camera installations along the south end of the Boardwalk. Over the years, however, the system has expanded to cover the entire promenade, making it a powerful tool for law enforcement and emergency services personnel. In 2019, the town started planning for the next phase in its City Watch program.
As part of the expansion, several installation sites were identified along Baltimore Avenue. And in 2020, the town secured $66,000 in state grant funding to move the project forward.
In a presentation this week, McGean told commission members the goal is to have seven new surveillance cameras installed along Baltimore Avenue by the start of the summer season. Locations include 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 23rd, and 27th streets. An eighth location, at 30th Street, has already been completed.
“Everything on Baltimore Avenue we have funding to do it,” he said.
McGean noted the biggest challenge has been connecting the new cameras to the City Watch system. While the plan is to attach the cameras to existing light poles, he explained they would need to connect to a fiber network.
To that end, the town will partner with the private sector company Crown Castle.
“As you know Crown Castle has installations all along Baltimore Avenue,” McGean said. “As part of our right of way use agreement with Crown Castle to allow them to install their small cells, wherever Crown Castle runs fiber the town of Ocean City is entitled to two strands of what we call dark fiber. So we are entitled to access their fiber and then we have to provide the appropriate equipment to put a signal through.”
While the company does not have fiber north of 12th Street, McGean said the town has put out a bid to run fiber to poles at 16th, 23rd and 27th streets.
“It may be a big benefit for Crown Castle for them to get some dark fiber off of us if they want to cost share,” he said. “I’ve reached out to them about that and they are supposed to get back to me.”
Looking ahead, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro expressed interest in having City Watch cameras at all entrance and exit points. He encouraged resort officials to explore cost estimates and funding sources as they move to the next phase of expansion.
“Baltimore Avenue, being this next phase, is extremely important,” he said. “But I will also add the importance of the entrance and exit points as well. They are up there with Baltimore Avenue.”
Officials noted surveillance cameras currently existed at the Route 50 and Route 90 bridges. Buzzuro, however, pointed to the lack of City Watch cameras at the north end.
“It’s an additional layer of security for us,” he said.
When asked if the town could partner with uptown businesses to utilize their surveillance cameras, McGean pointed to recent challenges.
“There’s been numerous discussions,” he replied. “We can take any camera and put it in the system. Essentially, we just need the IP address of the camera. The hiccup with that in the past is getting agreements from the camera owners to allow that.”
Commission members, however, agreed the town could work to identify uptown locations where the town could utilize private security cameras.