MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) There is a growing effort across the Grand Strand to get drug dealers off the streets, and the end result may earn you a new set of wheels at a discount.
WMBF News is taking a closer look at just how many cars police seize and where those rides end up.
Fifteenth Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit Deputy Commander Trevor Howlett identifies several vehicles seized from alleged criminals.
"This Honda seized from a drug trafficker who was taking cocaine from Atlanta to Horry County area," claims Howlett. "The Navigator seized from a heroine distributor in the River Oaks area."
Howlett's team of officers from all over Horry and Georgetown Counties has pulled dozens of suspected drug dealers' cars off the streets.
"We seize 20 a year, and since 2007, seized 98 of those vehicles," states Howlett.
The DEU nabs about 20 vehicles a year, keeping some as under cover vehicles, and they've put 40 or so up for auction earning the department roughly $80,000.
Myrtle Beach Police Lt Eric Dilorenzo is the Lieutenant of street crimes. His officers share information with the DEU, which helps MBPD also tackle the streets in search of drug offenders.
"Our numbers are up, considered to where they were last year," says Dilorenzo. "Myrtle beach got six vehicles last year, five so far already this year."
Dilorenzo explains that the drug traffickers must have a means of transportation to maintain a thriving business, and that is just what the DEU targets.
"[The dealers] have to have a car; if we have their car, we've put a stop to them, at least temporarily," he adds.
Some of those vehicles send clear messages, like the Community Education SUV, seized from a drug dealer and now used in the police force.
"It's increasing our fleet at no cost to the taxpayer," says a satisfied Howlett.
MBPD uses 10 of the sieved vehicles as under cover cars, which offer the benefit of stopping other would be criminals.
"When we're doing other drug complaints [or] burglary stake outs, it gives us the ability to blend in a lot more than a marked police car," justifies Howlett.
What's the potential benefit to locals, other than safer streets? The program gives you a chance to cash in on potential savings.
"Some of the cars we've sold for four or five thousand; some we've sold for about $1,000," Howlett says.
All cars up for auction are listed at govdeals.com. Think of it as the Ebay for government officials to list vehicles.
"During that 10 day period, you can come and inspect the vehicle, crank it up, see if it's something you'd be interested in if you're a prospective buyer," encourages Howlett.
Howlett goes on to explain while there are current deals to be had, the auction puts money right where it needs to be to keep the criminals off the streets.
"The Mercedes [up for auction] was a cocaine trafficker as well, Myrtle Beach location," he says. "All the money from the auction goes back toward funding for the DEU and agencies that have officers in the drug enforcement unit."
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