Myrtle Beach police unveils $5.8 million plan, looks to add 70 officers
Myrtle Beach, S.C. (WPDE) — Myrtle Beach is not immune to crime. The city has been making headlines recently for the string a violence that started Easter weekend. After that, a shooting caught on Facebook live in June made national news.
Since then, crime has continued and so has the outcry from the community for change.
Mayor John Rhodes said they are not turning a blind eye. He said he knows you can’t stop crime, instead you have to figure out how to control it.
“How do you stop somebody that brings a gun into town? You have no way to stop it. How do you stop someone that’s in a hotel room and the wife gets mad at the husband and shoots him? How do you stop that? You cannot stop crime. That’s just a fact of life. You try to control crime as much as you possibly can and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Tuesday, Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock presented a comprehensive seven-year plan to Myrtle Beach City Council.
The plan is complex and has been in the works for about 3 months, Prock said.
The plan is estimated to cost about $5.8 million dollars in total. There are still ongoing discussions on exactly where that money will come from, but a city spokesperson said they have had conversations with state leaders and are looking into tax revenue and tourism to help fund the plan.
Bead Dean, the President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said “the law does not allow us to redirect advertising dollars to law enforcement but we’re not willing to stop there.”
“Just like we did back in 2014 after the Memorial Day shootings, we plan to ask the general assembly to relax the laws and allow us to redirect advertising dollars to put more badges and blue lights on the Boulevard,” Dean said. “Tourism advertising is important, but there is no greater investment we can make in our community.”
The four main focuses of the plan are:
- Retaining the current team
- Expanding the team
- Intelligence-led deployment
- Continued pro-active policing strategies
Officials said the plan is fluid and Chief Prock stressed that several times throughout the lengthy presentation.
As of now, the plan is to add 70 new officers over the next seven years; 56 sworn officers and 14 non-sworn officers.
Prock said they need “more than just police officers.”
Council members said during the meeting that they back this plan and the men and women in blue 100 percent.
Rhodes said the plan is a “huge commitment but our city council stands behind this and stands behind this plan that she has because we know the importance.”
Councilman Mike Lowder said he is impressed with the plan and the increased communication, however he would like to see a more “aggressive plan.” He added as context, that he would like to see, for example, 15 more officers a year instead of ten.
Prock said the plan is fluid and Rhodes insisted that if there are qualified officers, they will be hired.
“If we can get more than 14 a year, if we can get 20 a year, if we can get people to qualify, we will find the money to pay them,” Rhodes said.
Prock spoke about the difficulties of recruiting and finding qualified candidates.
In the last hiring group for Myrtle Beach police officers, there were 116 applicants. Only 14 were hired after screening, testing, and more. The hiring process takes 2 to 3 months, and after officers are hired there is still extensive training to be done before they can be on the streets.
Prock said they are evaluating a pay-study program and the retention of police officers is a big part of the plan.
The department will also be implementing a power shift. That new shift will run from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., when Prock said most calls come in.
The department will also be expanding a crucial patrolling area.
The Waterfront District currently goes from 21st Avenue North to 3rd Avenue South, including oceanfront to Kings Highway.
In the new plan, the patrolled area will expand, adding coverage from 3rd Avenue South to 25th Avenue South.
That includes officers on foot, bicycles and golf carts.
The K-9 unit will also be expanding, adding a K-9 specializing in tracking explosive devices and a handler.
Prock said during the peak season they will seek assistance from other agencies, including the state, county and other cities.
Myrtle Beach police say the average daily population in Myrtle Beach is 155,615 people; 122,300 in the off-season and 188,930 during the tourist season.
The plan is not a response to a single event, Capt. Joey Crosby said, but “a comprehensive approach to address our issues we’re having in the city of Myrtle Beach.”
“We do not just consider what happened on Ocean Boulevard, we have to take into consideration what’s happening during the month of December, what’s happening in January, what’s happening with all our special events. This is not just something to address the summertime issues or special event issues. This is to address our year-round issues, to make sure we have additional officers on staff to handle the traffic complaints, the crime prevention questions, the power shifts we talked about here. This is a comprehensive approach to address our issues we’re having in the city of Myrtle Beach,” he said.
Chief Prock also talked about the importance of community involvement and communication. The department hosts neighborhood watch meetings, citizens police academy, rode-alongs and utilizes social media and their website to communicate with the community.