A community watch group created in The Oaks in Myrtle Beach earlier this year to combat growing crime was among several neighborhoods in Horry County celebrating National Night Out Tuesday.
It was the first National Night Out for residents of The Oaks community — roads off Oak Street between 29th Avenue North and 38th Avenue North — as it was for the Horry County Police Department holding an event at the M.L. Brown Public Safety Building in Conway.
“We’ve had some issues on this street with drugs, prostitution and things of that nature,” said John Manley.
The National Night Out is meant an event used to increase awareness about police programs in communities, and help residents become more familiar with police in their areas.
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Crimes that include shootings, in their area have led residents in The Oaks to participate in the effort. In January a man was shot to death after an argument about drugs on the 600 block of 37th Avenue North. Police charged Antwaun Nelson, 25, of Andrews in the shooting death of 46-year-old Michael Rogers.
“There’s been a lot of things like that going on which prompted us to build a better sense of community,” Manley said.
Jean Koehn said the watch group meetings have helped the community learn about the police officers and hopes it has helped her neighbors learn when to call police.
“We want people to be aware of whats going on,” she said. “And to know that they can call the police.”
Henry Bresdola, crime prevention officer for Myrtle Beach police, said crime watch groups and community involvement help police.
“I don’t know who belongs in your neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of these officers don’t know. We rely on the citizens or the neighbors to say this person is suspicious, or ‘My neighbor is out of town and this person shouldn’t be there.’”
Instilling the sense of community and learning who belongs in the neighborhood has been a focus of The Oaks group, Manley said. And he thinks it’s working.
“It’s not where it needs to be yet,” he said. “But, it’s helping and I think if we can continue on the path we’ve been on, I think it’s really going to clean this area up.”
In the Sandy Gate Village community, National Night Out is another way to keep kids busy in the summer, Bessie Mackie said.
“I think it’s fun,” Mackie said. “The kids enjoy themselves and play. They’ve got to get out of the house, cause if they don’t the end up driving me nuts. They need to have something to do.”
Mackie attended two events Tuesday, one at Monticello Park Apartments, where she lives and the one at Sandy Gate Village where her children have friends.
At Spivey Park in Withers Swash, kids enjoyed a petting zoo with goats and a llama and pony rides as well as homemade barbeque. They also met Myrtle Beach police’s K9 Roscoe.
That’s what National Night Out is all about, according to Conway’s community service Sgt. Darren Alston who said it gives residents a chance to speak casually with police and firefighters.