New police strategy hopes to reduce violent crime in your neighborhood

Horry County law enforcement officials think they have a way to reduce violent crime, but they doesn’t know the cost.

Since 2016, a small group of county council members, the police chief and sheriff’s chief deputy have been working on solutions to reduce violent crime and homicides, which have increased in recent years, especially in areas like Longs.

The plan, announced during a county public safety committee meeting Wednesday, is broken down into five strategies to address violent crime: intervention and prevention, enforcement targeting gun offenders and repeat offenders, prosecution at the federal level, meeting community and social needs, and additional resources including license plate readers and data-sharing between law enforcement agencies.

Some strategies are already implemented, but data-sharing could be rolled out next year.

“We’re going to do our best,” said Horry County police Chief Joseph Hill. “We’re not going to promise the public that we’re going to eradicate crime, that would be foolish of me to do so. With the public’s help we should be able to get this done, and that is reducing the amount of violent crime in the community.”

Hill said some of the increase in violent crimes is related to more gangs and drugs moving into the county.

As part of the plan, Hill is requesting a civilian crime analyst in the police budget next year. That person would use software the department already has to develop and maintain databases for data-sharing, maps to locate “hot spots” for crime and develop background information on suspects.

That software could be used in what Hill called a Fusion Center for data-sharing between Horry and Georgetown county law enforcement. The Fusion Center would start out operating within the cloud, but could become a brick-and-mortar building later on.

“Pie-in-the-sky, it would be a central location where all the jurisdictions would contribute to having a person or persons in the building dedicated to those crime analysis duties for all the agencies,” he said.

Heavy policing in “hotspot” areas like Longs is already producing results.

“That’s why you saw that come to fruition in the home invasion robberies we had out in Longs,” he said. “We put together a concerted effort also dealing with our task force partners to identify those folks and bring them in to justice.”

As part of the data-sharing plan, the police would also expand the use of license plate readers, especially on certain highways leading in and out of the county. The crime analyst could use that data to determine which cars were in the area of a crime and track those cars’ locations throughout the county.

But the cost of expanding the plate reader program and the brick and mortar Fusion Center hasn’t been determined. The time line for those programs would depend on funding, and Hill will bring the cost and funding sources back to county council before the plan moves on any further.

“We like what they’ve identified as the issues and the resolutions they’ve identified,” said council Chairman Mark Lazarus, adding that he didn’t know the cost of the program.

“I think we’ll hear it through the budgeting process this year,” Lazarus said. “I think they’ve identified the issues, I think they’ve identified plans. They’re trying to identify funding sources. We kind of put it back in their ballpark.”

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian