Docks are sometimes the target of opportunistic thieves, and some Lake Lanier residents wish they could use surveillance cameras to monitor the belongings they keep by the lake just as they do the belongings in their home.
“Theft is a common problem,” South Hall lake dweller Vicki Bentley said. “Life jackets, coolers, folding chairs, kayaks, canoes, fishing gear, gasoline and gasoline cans, and even soft drinks have been stolen from docks belonging to my family members over the decades.”
Such illegal activity has created a buzz lately on social media, with many of the comments directed at the Army Corps of Engineers, which governs Lake Lanier and keeps a strict rein on its multicounty shoreline.
“With the recent thefts from docks around the lake, the corps surely needs to rethink this issue of surveillance,” South Hall resident Angela Sparks said.
The corps doesn’t allow security cameras on docks, an issue addressed in the 2004 Lake Lanier Shore Management Plan. Specifically, the plan states: “Diving boards/structures of any type, as well as sliding boards, hammocks and playground equipment are prohibited.
“Additionally, items such as indoor furniture or objects that denote habitation such as, but not limited to couches, sinks, cabinets, appliances, satellite dishes, security cameras and permanent stereo systems are prohibited.”
Dock owners “agree to these terms when they apply for their permits,” corps spokeswoman Lisa Hunter said.
Also, “lake visitors have the right to be free from any type of electronic surveillance while recreating on public property,” according to the 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement for Lanier’s operation and maintenance.
“Certainly … things have changed since 2004, in light of cellphones (and other technology),” Hunter said. Old cellphones often can be repurposed as cheap security cameras.
“However, until the recent social media posts, we had not been made aware there was an issue with no security cameras.”
Hunter said the corps could revisit the issue “if there is significant interest by dock owners and issues occurring we are not aware of that would necessitate the use of security cameras.”
Security cameras “are probably one of several things — if we ever get into a shoreline plan rewrite — that we would probably request that they change,” said Joanna Cloud, Lake Lanier Association’s executive director.
“Interestingly, I’ve heard that several people have wired cameras onto their private property right at the edge of the corps (property) line, like in wooded areas or on a tree,” she said.
Bentley said she doesn’t know anyone who has a such a camera.
“Most of us live too far from the water’s edge to place a camera on our property that would … provide clear images of our docks and boats on the water,” she said.
Bentley said that’s especially the case as “so much of the theft seems to occur at nighttime or on really busy weekends, when the water is rough from heavy boat and personal watercraft traffic.”
Besides, she added, “one of the most important aspects of security cameras is the threat of being caught on camera, which acts as a deterrent to committing the crime in the first place. A camera on shore might not even be seen by thieves on the lake.”
Some lake residents have tried placing a camera on a dock, only to be told by corps staff to remove it, Bentley said.
Dock owners must renew their permit with the corps every five years. Corps officials usually notice the cameras during the inspection required for renewal, she said.
“This instruction has caused some concern and controversy among my neighbors, as they are often newer to the area and have little or no experience with (the corps) or their regulations,” Bentley said.