Crime data in Horry County continues to drift downward — especially in violent or notable crime — as police leaders want to continue the trend in 2019.
The number of murders in Horry County last year dropped from 23 to 20, while the number of murders in Myrtle Beach went from five to four.
Aggravated assaults in Horry County saw an increase from 2017 to 2018 from 548 to 557, but the number mostly has been trending downward in the last five years with 634 in 2014 and 615 in 2016. Myrtle Beach saw a drop from 312 aggravated assaults in 2017 to 235 last year.
“We assessed our crime,” Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said. “We’re able to find what we need to work on.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sun News
Prock spoke in a video posted to Facebook about some of the city efforts and how violent crime dropped by 17 percent in one year. Officials from the department declined several attempts or canceled interviews for this story.
There are several reasons why the crime numbers continue to trend down, including community engagement, targeting repeat offenders and groups targeting rehabilitation, Horry County police Chief Joe Hill said.
County police hold community meetings, and Hill said officers were shocked to learn that residents believe crime is worse than the numbers show. Locals are afraid of crime, Hill said.
Social media and news reports lead to the rampant belief crime is abundant, but Hill said cops are working to reduce that perception.
“Reducing that fear of crime is one of the goals in law enforcement and one of our initiatives in 2019,” Hill said.
The number of sexual assault cases in Myrtle Beach held steady from 2017 with about 60 cases in both years.
For Horry County police, the number of sexual assault cases dropped by 26 percent from 209 to 154 cases between 2017 and 2018. That comes as many police agencies across the country reported increases with more awareness and people stepping forward due to the #MeToo movement.
Hill and Deputy Chief Lance Winburn said they didn’t have a specific reason why the department saw a significant drop in the number of sexual assault cases, but Hill stressed he hopes it’s not because of people not reporting crimes.
Hill implored crime victims to come forward and said they aren’t bothering the police and that officers work for the community.
“We want to catch the bad guy and girl,” the chief said.
Strategies in 2019
In 2018, HCPD tasked each of its precincts to identify problem areas in the county, Wilburn said. Officers tried to have an increased presence in those areas to help residents feel safer.
“If you increase the numbers and times officers are in a given community you are going to have an increase in calls for service,” Winburn said, adding that it’s not because of an increase in crime. “It’s calls generated by the officers, when officers are in those communities and they see something going on.”
The county will also continue to work with other law enforcement agencies in the area, Hill said, because offenders don’t care if they venture into another jurisdiction.
“We know criminals do not honor boundaries, they will cross over in a heartbeat,” Hill said.
Police agencies work to identify repeat offenders and arrest them, Hill said, which is a crucial aspect to reduce crime.
Officials have also called on partnerships with the community and residents to help reduce crime. Recently, Myrtle Beach police and Horry County police announced partnerships with the RING app. The app lets people know about crime in their community and can also alert police to suspicious activity.
The community engagement is a crucial aspect of reducing crime as officers cannot be everywhere at once, Prock said. The department wants to make the connection and if people see something, they should say something.
“I want to continue to work on reducing crime,” Prock said. “I also want to continue to increase our community partnerships.”
Reporter Hannah Strong contributed to this report.