Myrtle Beach public safety officials hope to add more police and fire patrols, and more beach patrol staff in a sweeping proposal to improve beach safety.
Police Lt. Joey Crosby said beach patrol received 2969 calls for service this summer, a 135 percent increase from 2012, during a presentation to Myrtle Beach’s Beach Advisory Committee Tuesday. Calls for service could include a crime or a smaller offense, like disorderly conduct or shooting fireworks off at the beach. Crosby, who is the head of beach patrol for the city, proposed sweeping changes to multiple safety initiatives to deal with the increase in public safety demand.
The proposal would add two new officers and two new supervisors to beach patrol, Crosby said. Also included in that proposal was an additional boat; more radios for lifeguards, fire officials and police officers to communicate with each other; and co-trainings for all three groups and demonstrations to show safety officials’ skills to the public.
To fix one of the most pernicious issues on the beach, Crosby also suggested a colored bracelet system for children that would alert officers and lifeguards if a child had wandered out of a corresponding color-coded zone.
“You’d be very surprised the amount of time we spend trying to reunite children with their parents,” Crosby said.
In total, the proposal could cost over $800,000. Crosby and City Manager John Pedersen both said that the overall cost would likely be lower, however, because police plan to fill new beach patrol positions and then fill the vacancies created by that with entry-level hires, reducing a personnel cost that would reach over $500,000 otherwise. There are currently about 10 outstanding vacancies in Myrtle Beach’s police department.
The city’s accommodations tax committee has suggested contributing $150,000 in A-tax funds to the proposal, and Pedersen said the capital projects fund could help cover some costs in buying new equipment or water craft. Assuming city council would approve that use of A-tax funds, between $250,000 and $300,000 remained without an identifiable funding source as of Tuesday afternoon, Pedersen said.
City council will weigh Crosby’s proposal, and potential funding sources, in its Dec. 13 meeting.
The proposed public safety improvements comes after a busy summer, as Myrtle Beach saw multiple water rescues and five ocean drownings.
Local agencies had already began looking at ways to improve beach safety in Myrtle Beach, and several other items suggested by Crosby had been previously reported by The Sun News.
Myrtle Beach Fire Department introduced a new water rescue team at the beginning of the summer to patrol the beach between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., with over 20 members staffing two two-person crews. Under the new proposal, an additional two-person crew would be added. Last month, Crosby also told city council that a combination of lifeguards and public safety personnel will patrol the coast from the water on two Jet Skis in order to reach distressed swimmers more quickly and spot dangerous situations that may be difficult to see from the sand. Crosby’s suggestion changed to three Jet Skis on Tuesday.
Officials have also said fewer lifeguards will rent umbrellas so they can spend more time watching the water. Rentals are a main source of income for lifeguard franchisees, who do not receive money from the city.
The city also yanked Myrtle Beach Lifeguards, the franchisee that previously covered the beach from 67th Avenue North to 77th Avenue North, this summer for issues with its guards’ certifications.
Though some members of the Beach Advisory Committee asked about costs for the program, lifeguard franchise owners said the cost was worth it.
“I just think this is something that absolutely needs to be done,” George Lack, of Lack’s Beach Service, said.
The committee ultimately voted to recommend that city council adopt the safety improvements.