Law enforcement surges to Myrtle Beach to prep for Bikefest
More than 600 police will be patrolling the Grand Strand this weekend, but Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall wants all visiting law enforcement agencies to remember one thing: be a peace keeper, not an occupier.
That’s the message Gall lent to about 600 officers Thursday evening as they met at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel to be briefed on the city’s operational plan for Memorial Day weekend.
“Most people who are here come for vacation, and are here for a good time,” Gall said. “There will be a few that act up, but we’re looking for cooperation and compliance – and to show compassion.”
Most people who are here come for vacation, and are here for a good time. There will be a few that act up, but we’re looking for cooperation and compliance – and to show compassion.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall
Grand Strand officials spent the past year tweaking a 2015 plan to curb crime on Memorial Day weekend, which turned deadly two years ago when three people died and seven were injured in eight shootings on Ocean Boulevard. Tens of thousands of people travel to the Grand Strand to take advantage of a three-day weekend at the beach or participate in events such as the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
This year’s operational plans are the same as last year, with a few improvements here and there, according to Lt. Joey Crosby with Myrtle Beach police.
“Maybe where there was a barricade last year, there will be cones this year,” Crosby said.
More than 45 state and local agencies are in town this weekend, including some from Georgia and North Carolina. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is out in full force with more than 90 officers patrolling the Grand Strand. While some officers are here for the crowds surrounding Atlantic Beach Bikefest, many will be stationed to monitor this weekend’s boating activities.
Memorial Day weekend is a huge boating event, and DNR officials are going to “saturate” the Waccamaw River and Intracoastal Waterway, according to Robert McCullough, DNR spokesman.
“We [helped out] for years and it kind of calmed down, but now it’s picked up again,” McCullough said.
McCullough said many officers are willing to help out Myrtle Beach police during the weekend because it gives everyone around the state a chance to see old friends and meet new officers. The first-rate treatment by Myrtle Beach officials is also a plus, he added.
“It’s generally smooth sailing here; they take care of everything for us,” McCullough said.
Officers checked in at the convention center where they received their hotel assignments and had their radios programmed so that they all are operating on the same frequency. Each officer will work a 12-hour shift and is given hotel accommodations and a per diem card for meals.
Every Myrtle Beach police officer is equipped with a body camera, and Gall reminded visiting officers that several traffic cameras are placed throughout the city. The city spent about $250,000 to provide cameras to all 220 of the city’s officers last year.
Police will aid private security, which will be in charge of manning the 23-mile traffic loop that will be in place nightly from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Officials said they created the loop to keep Ocean Boulevard traffic moving, adding that congestion leads to street parties, which they say leads to violence.
The traffic loop routes drivers from 29th Avenue North on Ocean Boulevard south and around to Kings Highway, north to Harrelson Boulevard – which turns into George Bishop Parkway – west to Waccamaw Boulevard, which runs next to U.S. Highway 501, onto S.C. 31 heading north to Grissom Parkway south, then onto U.S. 17 Bypass and down 29th Avenue North.
Beginning Friday morning, only one-way traffic will be allowed heading southbound on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach beginning at 29th Avenue North with a dedicated emergency lane in the northbound lane. There also are barricades on both sides of Ocean Boulevard to keep pedestrians separate from traffic.
Officers will have cards on-hand that direct confused drivers to an online map, which gives locals and tourists traffic information and ways to get to a destination. For more information, visit the city’s Bikefest website for maps and contact information.
Gall encouraged all officers to remember that while some people may cause trouble this weekend, most are in Myrtle Beach for a good time.
“Some people have problems, and some people just need someone to talk to; but no matter what we need to remember we’re dealing with people,” he said.
Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN