Only a few bikers rode Atlantic Beach’s main drag Sunday morning as Police Chief Tim Taylor took his first stroll of the festivities for the day, greeting and shaking the hands of Bikefest bikers, vendors and residents who at 10 a.m. were among the early arrivals for the day’s events.
“It’ll get real busy in here in a little while,” said Taylor as he stood near the U.S. 17 end of the street and looked along the road lined with vendor spaces toward the ocean.
In the first two days of his first Bikefest as the town’s top cop, Taylor said there’d been just one arrest and that for indecent exposure.
The town decided to end alcohol sales at 2 a.m. rather than 4 a.m. as in the past and Taylor said the partying crowds dispersed without any problem. He said he saw on an observation trip to Daytona Beach how police there shut down the music for a bike rally at the closing hour, and it worked equally well in Atlantic Beach.
Policing a crowd the size of that at the Bikefest, he said, comes down to a few simple rules.
“Pretty much let people enjoy themselves,” he said. “Be firm. Be fair. Be respectful.”
Unlike previous Atlantic Beach police, said some on the street Sunday morning, Taylor is visible and responsive. He’s given his cellphone number to vendors, who are confident that he’ll come when called.
“He’s here on a dime,” said Tammy Storms, an Atlantic Beach resident who works behind the bar at an open-air tiki hut during Bikefest.
She said that before Taylor, it was rare to see police around town.
During Bikefest, his presence is reinforced by officers from Horry County Police, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office and the S.C. Highway Patrol during Bikefest, but Storms said his reach has made her everyday life better.
“I feel safe walking down in here now,” she said.
Taylor said that street drug sales were still common when he started his job nine months ago. He’s worked to clean it up and while he said there are still drug sales in town, the volume isn’t anywhere near as large nor the dealing as open as it used to be.
Taylor said he wanted to be a police officer ever since he was a kid watching cop shows on television. He wanted to be able to help people, he said.
After graduating from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, he went to work in Lake City, where he was named officer of the year. He then worked as a drug officer in Andrews, passing up a chance to become chief there.
He applied for the Atlantic Beach post, though.
“I wanted to make a difference here,” he said. “I’ve had success everywhere I worked and I wanted to bring that here.”
Even bikers have noticed the town is different.
Donald Simmons of Greensboro, N.C., said he hadn’t been to Bikefest for maybe five years. After last year’s chaos in Myrtle Beach, he said, “I thought it’d be a whole lot different than it is.”
It’s calmer, more controlled than what he expected when he left home.
Taylor, 29, said his Bikefest workday has run from 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. the next day. He’s stayed nearby in North Myrtle Beach and on Sunday morning he was looking forward to getting home to his wife and four children in Georgetown after the bikers’ departure Monday morning.
You’d think he’d be ready to sleep for three days, but what he’s looking forward to is being with his family.
They’ll be moving to the Myrtle Beach area soon, so next year during Bikefest he’ll be able to go home after each long day.
And yes, they are long days. But he can take it.
“I’m young,” he said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765 or on Twitter @TSN_SteveJones.