Myrtle Beach Bike Rallies

Officials: More police in town made for safer Bikefest

A man is taken for questioning after a shooting at Compass Cove Resort during Atlantic Beach Bikefest in 2015.
A man is taken for questioning after a shooting at Compass Cove Resort during Atlantic Beach Bikefest in 2015. jlee@thesunnews.com

More police officers on the streets, which were restricted with sidewalk barriers and one-way traffic along part of Ocean Boulevard, led to a safer Memorial Day weekend, officials said.

Final figures for arrests, warnings and fines, as well as any issues or changes authorities encountered during the event, won’t be available until probably August, Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.

But preliminary figures showed more warnings were issued and more fines were collected during the event by Horry County police, while Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach authorities showed a decrease in most of their figures compared to last year.

“The statistics are hard to interpret; you may see some things up and some things down but we doubled police,” Bourcier said. “It’s hard to dissect the numbers and what they truly mean. I think having the additional officers on the streets definitely helped.”

The increase in police officers and other changes, including a traffic loop, were implemented in response to last year’s Bikefest where three people were fatally shot and seven people were hurt during eight separate shootings along Ocean Boulevard.

Gov. Nikki Haley called for the end of Bikefest last year after the incidents, but then when Atlantic Beach Town officials refused to cancel their event, she worked with local agencies to beef up policing and plans for it.

“We wanted to welcome tourists, but let them know they need to abide by our laws,” Gov. Nikki Haley said last week during a stop in Conway. “It worked beautifully; we saw a huge reduction in crime than we had seen last year. We’ve seen a lot of difference in terms of mentality and how people talk to each other. There was a respect this past weekend that we didn’t have before. Now we are going to continue to work hard to make sure that improves every year.”

Atlantic Beach has a small police department with three officers and figures from their activities have not been released by town officials.

Haley pledged continued support to Myrtle Beach with officers and resources and said the barriers and one-way traffic on Ocean Boulevard would remain mainstays of the event.

“Those things worked,” Haley said.

This year, there were two shooting incidents during Memorial Day weekend, including one where a man was hurt, but there were no homicides. One arrest was made in the shooting, while police continue to look for the suspect in the second incident where gunshots were fired during a robbery attempt, authorities said.

However, police did investigate four fatal crashes involving motorcycle and mo-ped riders along the Grand Strand this year, less than the seven deaths in five crashes last year.

There also were 66 motorcycle crashes during Bikefest in Horry County this year, Bourcier said.

Before last year’s deadly turn of events, there had not been a homicide during the weekend in Myrtle Beach for five years.

In 2014, Jamie Williams, 28, of Ladson, and Devonte Dantzler, 21, of Summerville, died on the scene of one of the shootings. Sandy Gaddis Barnwell, 22, of Summerville, was pronounced dead later at Grand Strand Medical Center. A fourth person, Keith Williams of Lincolnville, was injured during the fatal shootings. Six others were injured by gunfire that weekend.

There were two murders in 2006, and one murder each in 2007 and 2008, according to Myrtle Beach police figures. The May 25, 2008, murder gained more attention than others because it involved a Coastal Carolina University student being killed during a dispute with three local teens about a parking space at a home in the city.

That year was also when Myrtle Beach City Council officials sought and later implemented a helmet law and stricter noise ordinances to get rid of bikers who often take over the area for up to three weeks during May.

State Supreme Court officials later overturned the helmet law, but many bikers, often in town for the Harley-Davidson Spring Rally, avoided the city limits during their travels.

This year, statistics for the Harley spring rally were not available from Myrtle Beach officials, but figures from North Myrtle Beach showed no major increases or decreases in arrests, warnings and tickets issued.

However, Horry County figures for that rally, from May 10-16, showed that fewer fines were collected as compared to last year. This year, officials collected $48,791.50 in fines compared to $81,444.50 last year.

County officers issued 162 warnings this year, made 27 arrests and issued 153 courtesy tickets this year, while last year they issued 171 warnings and made 271 cases, which was calculated differently last year, Lt. Raul Denis said. The number of arrests and tickets issued last year were not available.

As for other crimes during Bikefest, officials said more police increased the number of warnings, arrests and tickets issued with fines collected, Bourcier said.

In Myrtle Beach this year, there were six armed robberies, one less than last year and less than when compared to previous years when the numbers peaked in 2007 with 18 robberies reported; there were 15 in 2008 and seven recorded in 2011, according to figures.

Myrtle Beach police also saw a slight increase in stolen motorcycles and vehicles with 18 and 23 reported respectively this year, compared to 10 and 21, respectively, last year, according to their statistical report. Officers also recovered 44 stolen motorcycles this year as compared to 18 recovered last year.

Horry County and North Myrtle Beach authorities recorded their figures for arrests, warnings and fines a bit differently.

In Horry County, officials tallied eight days’ worth of figures from May 18 to May 25 and noted they issued 322 warnings, made 240 arrests and collected $68,428 worth of fines.

They recorded five days’ worth of figures in 2014 from May 21-25, and issued 143 warnings, 204 arrests and collected $36,443 in fines.

During the five-day period in 2013, Horry County officers issued 58 warnings, made 115 arrests and collected $16,218 in fines, according to figures released by Lt. Raul Denis.

In North Myrtle Beach, statistics were lower, but their crowd is different, said Pat Dowling, city spokesman.

“As has always been the case with Bikefest, we saw many of the same repeat visitors in North Myrtle Beach, and Bikefest participants at our end of the beach tend to be older and have been coming to the event for many years,” Dowling said.

In North Myrtle Beach, statistics from May 21-25 showed that officers made 47 arrests, issued 176 tickets and 178 warnings. For the same period last year, they made 105 arrests, issued 489 tickets and 227 warnings.

“According to our public safety officials, North Myrtle Beach saw a 30 to 40 percent increase in Harley week attendance, and a 30 to 40 percent decrease in Atlantic Beach Bikefest attendance. Not sure as to the motivation behind either event,” said Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach spokesman. “Generally, both events were policed fairly and respectfully, and participants in both events generally responded in kind.”

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or on Twitter @tonyaroot.

Memorial Day weekend figures

HORRY COUNTY POLICE

▪ May 18-25, 2015 | 322 warnings | 240 arrests | $68,428 in fines

▪ May 21-25, 2014 | 143 warnings | 204 arrests | $36,443 in fines

▪ May 23-27, 2013 | 85 warnings | 89 arrests | $20,225 in fines

▪ May 24-28, 2012 | 124 warnings | 239 arrests | $44,578 in fines

MYRTLE BEACH POLICE

▪ May 2015 | 809 people cited or arrested | 1,049 charges filed | 4,106 calls for police

▪ May 2014 | 1,104 people cited or arrested | 1,464 charges filed | 4,045 calls for police

▪ May 2013 | 864 people cited or arrested | 1,141 charges filed | 4,010 calls for police

▪ May 2012 | 983 people cited or arrested | 1,191 charges filed | 3,711 calls for police

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH POLICE

▪ May 21-25, 2015 | 47 arrests | 176 tickets | 178 warnings | 1,043 calls for service

▪ May 22-26, 2014 | 105 arrests | 489 tickets | 227 warnings | 1,437 calls for service

▪ May 23-27, 2013 | 70 arrests | 411 tickets | 260 warnings | 1,436 calls for service

▪ May 24-28, 2012 | 39 arrests | 291 tickets | 165 warnings | 1,259 calls for service

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