Myrtle Beach police plan summit to gather possible solutions for Memorial Day weekend violence

Myrtle Beach’s police chief has invited law enforcement officers from up and down the East Coast to Myrtle Beach for a summit to gather possible solutions to deal with the violence that occurred in the city during Memorial Day weekend.

Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall said it was the violence and rowdiness seen in the city during Memorial Day weekend, when thousands came to the Grand Strand to attend Atlantic Beach Bikefest and Military Appreciation Days, that caused him to begin putting together the Myrtle Beach Special Events Summit to be held in September. Three people were killed and seven injured during eight shootings in Myrtle Beach that weekend.

“I want to invite the agencies that are not hosting these kind of events, but seeing them pop up in their communities,” Gall said. “We’ll hear from people who are faced with these issues, what they’re facing, what worked and what didn’t work.”

The summit will take place Sept. 21 to Sept. 23 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Registration already is open.

Gall said he hopes to draw about 100 law enforcement officers and local government administrators from throughout the East Coast to the summit, who will share information about how those departments deal with events that are similar to Bikefest.

Gall has said he believes that a triple homicide at an Ocean Boulevard hotel during Memorial Day weekend is directly connected to the motorcycle rally.

Three people were killed and one person was injured in a May 24 shooting at Bermuda Sands Resort. There have been no arrests in connection with the killings. There were seven other confirmed shootings along Ocean Boulevard that injured six people that weekend.

Gall said he attempted to put together a similar summit a few years ago, but did not get a lot of interest from other areas. This time, more jurisdictions are interested in taking part, he said.

Myrtle Beach does not grant any motorcycle-related special event permits during May. Bikefest is based in the four-block town of Atlantic Beach, but the small town is unable to hold all of the festival goers and many spill over into other areas of the Grand Strand.

Myrtle Beach assistant city manager John Pedersen said the fact that there is no organization to the event when it reaches the city makes it difficult to implement changes with those coming to town for Bikefest.

Pedersen oversees the city’s special event technical review committee, which works with event organizers and makes recommendations to City Council on whether or not to grant the event a permit.

“What we do doesn’t relate to this un-permitted event that just happens,” Pedersen said, adding that when someone proposes holding a larger event in the city, there is a lot of negotiation between the city and the event promoter. “Dealing with Bikefest in Myrtle Beach, there’s no organizer to go to, nobody to negotiate a change with, no one to talk to about traffic patterns and EMS that would be needed.”

Gall said as of Thursday, the police department from Virginia Beach, Va., was confirmed to present during the summit in addition to a joint presentation from Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County police.

He said he’s spoken with representatives from Charlotte, N.C., Miami and Daytona Beach, Fla., and has extended invitations to police departments from areas ranging from Chicago and Ocean City, Md., to Louisville, Ky., and Galveston, Texas.

“The brighter minds we have there, the better ideas we’ll hear,” Gall said. “We’re not above borrowing ideas from anyone.”

He said he also views the summit as a networking opportunity. State law does not allow law enforcement officers from other states to enforce laws in South Carolina but some lawmakers have said they hope to lift that restriction by next Memorial Day.

Myrtle Beach Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said she’s sure the summit will help the city as it continues to search for ways to get things under control during Memorial Day weekend. She said she also hopes the summit will open the lines of communication for the different agencies to lend each other a hand when needed.

“We’re trying to get as much help as we can here to enforce the laws on the books,” Means said.

The S.C. General Assembly approved a last-minute budget amendment in June that allows up to one third of accommodations taxes returned to Horry County – or municipalities in Horry County – to be set aside to pay for public safety during events held in May.

That could result in up to $2.3 million available to Myrtle Beach to pay for additional law enforcement next year.

Gall said he does not envision the summit being held again, but is open to the idea.

“Maybe it will be so well attended and it will go so well that someone else will want to do something similar in their town in the future,” he said.

For more information on the summit, visit www.myrtlebeachspecialeventssummit.com.