The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has offered to help pay for 70 new Myrtle Beach cops the police chief said she hopes to hire in the coming years. They are working with the city to apply for state approval, but the South Carolina General Assembly does not return into session until January.
Brad Dean, president of the Chamber, said that he plans on redirecting funds from the tourism tax that is currently being used for advertising. To make the change, however, Dean said that the Chamber will have to go before the General Assembly for permission to redirect the money.
“The tourism tax funds are highly regulated, but we are willing to do what it takes to provide support to the police force,” Dean said in a release.
Dean said that the Chamber sent funds from the tourism tax to the police department in 2014 when multiple shootings broke out along Ocean Boulevard over Memorial Day weekend that year.
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After going before the General Assembly, the Chamber was able to provide half a million dollars to the police department for public safety.
“We intend to follow a similar strategy this time, knowing the importance of public safety and putting more officers on our streets,” Dean said. “We’re going to work with the city and our local delegation to ask the state to relax its laws and allow us to redirect dollars from advertising to law enforcement.”
Another problem, Dean said, is that the General Assembly does not like to pass local legislation.
“Hopefully they’ll recognize the importance of keeping the state’s cash cow, the Grand Strand, safe and welcoming for all visitors,” he said.
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.
When she presented the plan to the Myrtle Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday, Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock proposed asking the state for grants and other funds, which once again means that officials will have to go before the General Assembly.
The resolution proposed at the meeting states, “Given the importance of tourism to the State, 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.”
Rhodes did say that officials have already reached out to local legislatures.
The Sun News did reach out to Representative Alan Clemmons, who represents the Myrtle Beach area, but he was not immediately available for comment. It is unclear at this time if lawmakers support approving the funding.
According to Rhodes, people have had mixed feeling about the proposed plan.
For the mayoral candidates Mark McBride, Brenda Bethune, C.D. Rozsa and Ed Carey, public safety has been a top issue in their campaigns.
Former Myrtle Beach Mayor McBride wants to hire 100 new police officers, and does not agree with the plan to hire 56 officers who will patrol the streets, having 14 officers who will remain in the office.
“I’m not talking about people sitting at a desk,” McBride said. “We need officers on the street patrolling. We can’t even operate the city now. It’s just absolutely a fallacy. It’s poor management, it’s poor decision making, it’s poor policy and things have to change.”
Bethune hopes to look toward other cities to see how they have successfully improved public safety.
She plans to “look outside the box” and consider concepts like privatized police and hospitality institutes.
“We didn’t just wake up in 2017 and have a shortage of police officers,” she said. “We’ve known that Myrtle Beach has been growing, however our public safety has not been planned to keep up with that. I think we need to be looking at what other cities have done successfully, and take some of those models and bring them back here. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Rozsa plans on making for specified divisions in the police department that are seen in bigger city’s such as human trafficking, drugs, vice, stolen vehicles and homicide.
He also aims to hire more officers as well as more experienced officers.
Carey does not want to focus on the number of officers, rather, he wants to focus on hiring experts.
“I will immediately form a mayor-elects Commission on Pubic Safety,” Carey said in an email. “This commission will be made up of a diversified group of retired citizens with significant backgrounds in law enforcement, public management and public safety careers.”
Carey also plans on working with state legislators and the governor to find solutions that would minimize the “backlog” of training at the police academy.
As for immediate needs, Rhodes sated “Whatever funding we’re having to do is coming from the city budget.”
The plan proposed by Chief Prock Tuesday calls for the city to hire 10 officers each year for seven years. Each officer would be placed in a different division, ranging from 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.
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.
“If we have more than 10 to 14 that meet the qualifications, we will hire more than 10 to 14,” Rhodes said. “We’re not going to give you some fictitious number.”
Dean stated, “While tourism promotion’s important, we believe there’s no better investment we can make in our community than public safety.”