MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) As tourists flock to the Grand Strand by the millions over the spring and summer months, the chances of becoming a crime victim increase.
WMBF News Anchor Michael Maely talked to police for a closer look at which crimes spike and what you can do to prevent it.
It happens every spring and summer, more visitors filter into the Grand Strand and more crime begins to occur.
"We're going from around 30,000 people to as much as 300,000 per day," said Myrtle Beach Police Captain David Knipes. And the type of crime, depends on the time of the season. During bike weeks there are more stolen vehicles. In fact, there were 78 vehicles stolen in just the month of May last year according to Myrtle Beach Police.
Of the nearly 1,000 auto break-ins in Myrtle Beach last year, almost 70 percent happened in the summer months. It took just seconds for the WMBF News cameras to see why it's such a problem.
"Here's a cell phone right here," Maely points out to Captain Knipes in a nearby parked car.
"Oh [that's] very common and this is minor. A lot of the times we're going to find purses underneath the front seat," replied Knipes "I'm walking up; I can open this door very easily. I can take items out. Nobody's gonna know."
Knipes points out that these types of crimes are constantly called in to the police department.
"We're gonna get a police report, have to tie up an officer for something that could have been prevented," Knipes said.
Knipes says the message isn't just for tourists. "It's a lot of locals who may become complacent and leave their vehicle unlocked," he explains.
Crime isn't secluded to the beach. Knipes says criminals will hit neighborhoods in swarms.
"What happens is these criminal are just going around neighborhoods and they're trying car doors, trying to find the cars that are unlocked," said Knipes. "It's a domino effect. They're breaking into the car [then] they're gonna pawn the stuff. They're gonna buy drugs, prostitution, criminal offenses to get that money for those drugs."
June brings the young visitors who made up another chunk of the city's nearly 5,000 arrests last year.
"The first two weeks of June, when all the high school kids come down here, we're gonna have spikes in our alcohol related offenses, our fights, and sadly we're gonna have a really big spike in our calls for criminal sexual conduct," said Knipes.
Police say 20 percent of all sexual assaults reported last year happened in the beginning of June. There were roughly 11 purse snatchings in Horry County last year, another 17 such crimes in Myrtle Beach and as you can see by the red dots on this crime map, they happened in the busier parts of town.
Anywhere from Coastal Grand Mall, down to the beach, 5th Ave. South up to about 30th Ave. North were the hot spots for crime.
Another target has become foreign students. When they're walking or biking home, they often times fall victim while trying to help someone else.
"You're walking along the street, and someone approaches you and asks you for a dollar or two dollars and you pull out your wallet," explains Capt. Knipes, "he snatches it out of your hand and runs."
When it comes to hotel security, police say just because you're a few floors up, don't think you're immune from potential theft.
"We've had many cases in what we call 'spider-men', where these people, they fall from hotels a lot, but they also try to climb, scale the hotels, and go from one floor to another," said Knipes.
We took Knipes' theory to a popular hotel to see just what people though.
"Would it be surprising to you if I said police have seen examples where people have scaled up a building to break into a balcony," asked Maely of Sabena Dayton of Kingston Plantation.
Hardly phased by the question, Dayton replies, "No it wouldn't actually."
As Sales and Marketing Director, Dayton says they give guests a safety packet at check-in and encourage them to lock all balcony doors. However she says most of the potential problems are at the pool, where people take off their valuables and they get into the water.
"So we try to remind the guests, please be careful of your valuables because there's a lot of guests here in the summertime," said Dayton.
Police say the only way to buck the summer crime trend is to get involved.
"We're a strong proponent of the neighborhood watch system; [we] have about 18 in the city now. We'd love to double that. We'd love every neighborhood to have a neighborhood watch. The communication that they provide between the police and the citizens is essential," said Knipes.
Police say not all the criminals are locals, in fact nearly 1,500 arrested last year lived outside of South Carolina.