Watch out: This meeting will be larger.
Welcoming all residents across the city, Myrtle Beach will have a City-Wide Neighborhood Watch Meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chamber, Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center, 1101 Oak St., at Mr. Joe White Avenue.
Usually, the various neighborhood watch groups each convene on their own every month, with Pete Woods, the Myrtle Beach Police Department’s Pete Woods, but they all will converge once for May on this grander scale, a city convention of sorts.
For 21/2 years in his coordinating role, Woods has fed off the enthusiasm from city residents who want to help make their residential developments safer and learn ways to increase awareness to improve everyone’s safety. Whether it’s taking home tips to combat identity theft, help police to report any suspicious activities or individuals, or ensuring a family plan for a fire escape or steps to prepare for a hurricane evacuation, Woods wants to spread the word on education.
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Question | How many neighborhood watch groups gather regularly?
Answer | We have 19 up and running, and three others developing. Within the last two years, because of the city population increasing, we’ve probably doubled the amount of groups we have. The core thing, regardless of whether you live on the north side, south side or middle of town, is we want everyone to live in as crime-free a place as possible. ... What is successful is this partnership between police and the neighborhoods. We have a presence in every neighborhood.
Q. | What values are instilled at meetings, for everyone to do their part in helping by starting at home?
A. | It’s all about crime prevention. It’s also about awareness and diligence – daily. ... It’s not just about crime, but other city services, and what is available to make this be the city it can be.
Q. | What has become a major crime of concern of late, and what subjects are recurring topics at group gatherings?
A. | Identity theft; to date, I have probably heard of more than 170 people with identity theft issues. In every neighborhood, the most common things are noise and speeding. ... Another one – it’s not a crime issue, but it can be one – is abandoned properties, which have been throughout the city because of what’s happened to the economy. A house run down lends itself to people looking at it and breaking in.
Q. | How do you elaborate on the waves in seasons that crime trends ride across Myrtle Beach?
A. | It’s a common thread we stress at neighborhood watch meetings. With summer, we have a distinct crime season. From now to the end of tourist season, the No. 1 crime is burglary auto. A great deal of victims are tourists, and a great deal of criminals are from out of town. It’s become a very soft target, with purses, GPS devices and all those things low-level criminals will scoop up. They’re just looking for a couple of dollars. ... It’s an easy crime, and not labor intensive. ... The criminals adapt, and with the seasons, they adapt.
Q. | At Christmas shopping time, you’ve reminded everyone to keep car keys and phones handy when traversing parking lots. How do neighborhood watch programs reinforce the need to keep crime prevention and awareness strong year round, without slacking in any season?
A. | The holiday season is where the crime shifts again. ... Last season, we took bicycle patrol officers ... to store parking lots and had great results; they get through parking lots faster and are not seen so easily by criminals. ...
It all ties back to crime prevention and awareness ... of the criminals and people being ahead of the game, and not be just 911 responses.
Q. | How do neighborhood watch attendees add extra eyes in their locales, such as through passing around of sheets detailing wanted individuals?
A. | They’re educated and informed about wanted suspects, and we have taken people into custody because of neighborhood watch members’ calls to police. It’s a partnership of the neighborhood and the police.
Q. | How does unifying all the watch groups for a citywide meeting deepen that shared goal?
A. | To look at what works, what doesn’t work and what can be done better. Second, we’re having people from Horry County Emergency Management speak, because we haven’t had a hurricane hit here in a while, and hurricane season is coming. Again, it ties into crime prevention: Let’s plan now, instead of on the day of the storm.
Q. | Even across the city, month after month, how does each neighborhood group meeting vary from one to another?
A. | Each neighborhood has a different nuance to go with it, and that’s where it’s really important to ask, “Why have one big meeting?” ... It ties back into the partnership, and that it’s not just one size fits all. This big meeting, because of hurricane season, and because we’ve grown as a city, it’s good to bring everyone together. ... We’re booming, and that’s also another reason to have everyone come together.
Q. | What other easy benefits arise from attending a neighborhood watch meeting every month?
A. | Who knew that credit reports were free, and that it was more effective than credit monitoring? Who knew about wanted suspects? Who knew if you to go to neighborhood watch meetings, that you’d know who the local convicted sex offenders are? ... These are all things, if you take one hour each month, you can help make your own neighborhood safer.