Myrtle Beach’s top cop wants 70 more officers to confront violence in the city that has made national headlines in recent months. But funding for the new jobs is far from certain. She also plans to change how the police department deploys its existing officers.
“This plan is where we are going and where we are growing and we want to address our needs in real-time,” Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said during the meeting. “Anything that comes into our city is what we need to be focused on.”
With less than a month before Myrtle Beach City Council elections, violence and policing have been some of the main talking points for incumbents and challengers.
The plan calls for 10 new officers to be hired every year over the course of seven years for various divisions of the department. The divisions include patrol, special operations for traffic and marine units, investigative division for crime scene units, a support services division that aims to support officers on the street, an administrative division, which consists of non-sworn in officers and a “power shift” team.
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The “power shift” team, which will be created with existing officers by the end of this week, will work from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., when crime peaks in the city, according to police spokesman Capt. Joey Crosby.
“I’m not saying that’s the only time that crime’s reported,” Crosby said. “It’s when we see a peak in crime. It may be in a specific neighborhood, it may be for a specific time. So that shift has to have some flexibility to move around the city at certain times and in certain places.”
The expansion of officers on the street will also allow the department to increase patrolling farther down Ocean Boulevard. Currently, police patrol areas between 21st Avenue North and 3rd Avenue South.
“We were having an influx of incidents south of 3rd Avenue South,” Prock said. “We were going to expand from 3rd Avenue South to 25th Avenue South.”
Through the plan Prock hopes to improve the use of technology, communication both internally and externally, officer deployment, and start community programs like law enforcement youth picnics, Citizens Police Academy, active neighborhood watch groups and a Junior Police Academy.
Here’s how the plan could look each year:
- 2018-19: 10 new officers will be assigned to patrol the city and the waterfront
- 2019-20: Six new ‘power shift’ officers will be added, as well as four desk officers
- 2020-21: Four new officers will be assigned to patrol the city and the waterfront; one new narcotics officer will be added to the investigative division; one new traffic officer and one new marine unit officer will be added to the special operations division; one new detention officer, one communications officer and one real-time crime analyst will be added to the support services division
- 2021-22: Four new patrol officer will be assigned; one traffic officer and one marine unit officer will be added to the special operations division; one detention officer and one communications officer will be added to the support services division; one crime scene specialist and one detective will be added to the investigative division
- 2022-23: Two new ‘power shift’ officers will be added; one crime scene specialist, one narcotics officer and one detective will be added to the investigative division; on traffic officer will be added to the special operation division; one real-time crime analyst, one communications officer, one detention officer and one property and evidence clerk will be added to the support services department
- 2023-24: Eight new patrol officers will be assigned; two new training officers will be added to the administrative department
- 2024-25: Six new patrol officers will be assigned; one traffic officer and one marine unit officer will be assigned to the special operations division; one narcotics officer will be added to the investigative division; one real-time crime analyst will be added to the support services division
By the end, an additional 56 sworn officers and 14 non-sworn officers would be added to the department.
However, a lack of qualified applicants makes it difficult for new officers to be hired.
Prock stated that last year the department had 116 applicants. After a background check, a secondary background check, interview with a panel, interview with the chief of police, a polygraph test, a psychological test and a physical agility test, only 14 qualified applicants joined the force.
“I realize people would say, ‘let’s bring them on tomorrow,’” John Pedersen, city manager, said during the meeting. “We are limited by a number of applicants. Every single qualified applicant we extend an offer to.”
In order to hire the officers, the city will need around $1.6 million in year one and nearly $5.3 million in year seven. For a total of seven years the city will need nearly $24 million, according to documents provided by city officials.
“Council asks the Legislature to provide additional financial resources for new police officers to meet the demands on law enforcement and to preserve South Carolina’s reputation for safety,” the original resolution states. It is unclear at this time if lawmakers will approve the funding.
A release from Brad Dean with the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce states “The chamber is in full support of the plan, and we are willing to re-direct advertising dollars to help put more police presnece on the streets. The tourism tax funds are highly-regulated, but we are willing to do what it takes to provide support to the police force.”
Despite the challenges, the plan was well-received by city council members, with each member showing their support for the department.
“As you saw in the operational plan, we do not just consider what’s happened on Ocean Boulevard,” Crosby said. “We have to consider what’s happened in the month of December, what happened in January, what’s happening with all of our special events. So this is not just something to address summertime issues or special issues. This is a comprehensive approach to address the issues in the City of Myrtle Beach.”