Increasing the number of Myrtle Beach police officers is appropriate and an action the City Council had determined to take prior to the shameful lawlessness that claimed three lives in the city over the Memorial Day weekend. However, even 100 more officers on the city force would not necessarily control the bad human behavior that led to the deaths.
Let’s be clear that the situation in Myrtle Beach a week ago boils down to unacceptable behavior – the fatal shootings and related fights were not because of motorcyclists or the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. The issues are not really about race or the right of people to be here. Granted, the AB Bikefest may have been the event that attracted many onlookers, including those involved in fighting and other misbehavior along several blocks of Ocean Boulevard. In all, five shooting incidents were confirmed.
The shooting victims, all in their 20s, are from Summerville and Ladson. At this writing, no shooters have been arrested. A surveillance camera video from a hotel on Flagg Street has been released and we hope that helps apprehend the man in the video. Illustrating what police officers are up against, one victim, shot in the leg, told officers he didn’t want to talk to them about the shooting and “to quit harassing him,’’ according to the report.
We’ll not speculate on the motives of those who came here and were involved in the fighting. It matters not where they came from or why they might have chosen to visit Myrtle Beach. The trouble along two miles of Ocean Boulevard could have happened in any of a number of locales along the Grand Strand. The shooting victims were involved in the fighting, but that does not make them any less victims.
What matters is that three people are dead, and beyond that tragic loss of life, there is potentially huge fallout for the entire area. Many city residents and business owners are rightly angry and several spoke about the marred Memorial Day weekend, which was the finale of Military Appreciation Days, started by the city several years ago as a family alternative to two May motorcycle events.
Some of the complaints voiced to the mayor and council members had a feeling of deja vu. This wasn’t the first time the area has experienced unruly behavior such as that seen along Ocean Boulevard – gridlock and belligerent young adults taking over private property and using it as a public toilet, for example. Then, as a week ago, the miscreants were a very few of the total number of folks here for the holiday weekend.
In a tourism-driven area such as ours, it’s no easy matter for a mayor to call the governor and ask for help in restoring order. S.C. Guard soldiers in the streets is not a good image for a top vacation destination. On the other hand, residents and visitors alike must feel safe. So hiring more city police officers is necessary, even if it means an increase in taxes on property. Ten more officers, half the increase sought by the police chief, will increase to 203 the total of city officers.
Meanwhile, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and others will need to do some serious damage control – more advertising and promotions – to present a positive image of the area. Mayor John Rhodes and council members understand that the problems of last weekend extend beyond the city limits. Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus and area legislators have offered support and we hope they and other municipal leaders, including those in Atlantic Beach, will work together on this critical challenge.
No governmental entity, city, county or state, can end a well-established event or prevent folks from coming to the beach. The city can, with the help of the state, county and other area communities, fully enforce all laws, all the time -- not only on certain weekends. Doing that will require not only more city police officers, but also a better plan for having state troopers, conservation officers, the S.C. Guard if necessary, on the street here as needed.
Whatever increased level of law enforcement is necessary, the Memorial weekend lawlessness must not occur again.