MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – After years of planning, months of construction and millions of dollars, local leaders say the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is a success.
Officials with the City of Myrtle Beach opened the area's newest attraction to the public in May, bringing with it high hopes of changing the reputation of Ocean Boulevard. Paired with events and downtown festivals, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade has entertained thousands along the one-mile stretch of beach.
The more than $6 million attraction is drawing tourists and residents to Myrtle Beach's waterfront, but are officials truly enforcing new rules to keep the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade safe?
Deanna Burns, who was on the Boardwalk visiting from Matthews, NC, Monday, said she thinks the attraction is family friendly with a lot of patrols.
"We've seen at least two police patrolling on Segues, and we have not been here over an hour," she said.
But others say that's not the case.
"I guess the immediate concern is that you do not see any law enforcement officers around here," said Audrey Hosley, of Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes said just because people do not see the patrols does not mean officers do not see what they are doing.
"There is a large number of people down there, a large number of tourists that are in that area, and it's going to bring some additional crime," explained Knipes. "That's why we have the officers. That's why we have some cameras that are mounted in that area also, so we're doing everything we can to make it a safe and enjoyable place."
Korribrett Turner-Vaught with the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation said there are rules in place to keep people safe on the boardwalk. To keep the area safe and clean, the City of Myrtle Beach has developed a list of rules aimed at keeping pets, skateboarders and the area's homeless at bay.
- Residents and tourists are permitted to walk animals and ride bikes along the boardwalk during certain times of the day. During the peak summer season, those activities will be allowed from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. In the off-season, time constraints do not apply.
- Alcohol will not be permitted within any of the boardwalk's divided districts.
- The Central District is the only section of the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade where amplified sound is permitted. All noise must meet noise requirements as outlined in city ordinances.
- Those walking along the boardwalk are not permitted to spit gum, litter or obstruct the passage way.
- The feeding of animals situated within the different districts of the boardwalk is not permitted.
Some of the rules are no bikes and no dogs, but on one Friday afternoon, there were lots of both all along the boardwalk.
Marvin McHone, who owns a restaurant and bar in the area, says the problem is that no one knows what the rules are.
"The rules are supposed to apply to dogs and there are people bringing dogs down here all hours of the day because there's no rules posted," said McHone. "You get a kid down here on a trick bike or something or they'll go flying through there and somebody will step out in front of them or not paying attention and they can step back and get in their path. Somebody can get hurt seriously."
Turner-Vaught said the city is working to get signs posted.
"There were strict budget concerns and the project needed to be within the budget, so the signage was really the last component that needed to go up once the project was finished," explained Turner-Vaught, adding that signs are expected to go up in the next few weeks.
Apart from the bikes and pets – what else goes on near the boardwalk?
Police records have shown dozens of reports from that area of downtown – more than 60 since the start of May. The reports point to everything ranging from prostitution along Ocean Boulevard to the possession of cocaine and marijuana. There was a report for gambling in Plyler Park, as well.
Another report described a case where a man said three people held a knife to his throat and robbed him.
Although most of these reports were not filed from the boardwalk itself, the incidents happened just a few feet away.
Hosley said it is enough to keep her home at night.
"Around 10 o'clock, I make sure that I'm not out here because everything changes," explained Hosley. "People are intoxicated. The youth come out. You smell marijuana and different things."
As the sun sets over the Strand and day turns into night, things do change - police are out on patrol. However, some tourists, like Ariel Todd, say they still have concerns.
"There are a lot of drunk people out here and drunk people can get rowdy," said Todd.
Ashley Martinez, visiting from California, agreed: "That's more of a safety concern than bikes, dogs and anything else they have – is basically just Ocean Boulevard."
Ocean Boulevard is a bustling area of downtown Myrtle Beach, especially at night when most of the crime happens.
"It's just like any place you go, there's good and bad," Knipes said. "You have to use your common sense and to make yourself safer, depending on your actions you can get yourself in trouble, unfortunately in this day and time."