Crime trends near school bus stops

For some parents, the school bus is the only way their kids can get to school every day.
For some parents, the school bus is the only way their kids can get to school every day.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - You want your child to be safe at school, but from the time they head out the front door until they get on the school bus, they could be a walking target.

Six sex offenders live within half a mile of a bus stop on 48th Avenue and Forest Drive. In the same area, several reports of burglaries involving high ticket items; flat screen TVs, computers, diamonds and jewelry. During the past school year, there's even been a report of an armed robbery on two victims who were walking down 48th Avenue.

Fabian Vivanco owns a salon on Broadway Street in Myrtle Beach, just two blocks down from another bus stop. He says his salon has been broken into several times.

"The first time they took my TVs, blow dryers and stuff," Vivanco remembers. "I [had] to change the alarm system twice."

Vivanco says crime in the area is out of control.

"[There] used to be a lady, she used to plan meetings to try and make this place better.  [She would] go to the city and ask for lights, whatever, but she left," Vivanco says. "I think she got tired of it."

During the last school year, within half a mile of the Broadway bus stop, Myrtle Beach Police responded to dozens of burglaries and made several drug and indecent exposure arrests.

One victim called police after a registered sex offender, who was on the run, walked into her store during daylight hours and grabbed her breasts. Another suspect is so dangerous, the owner of a Brazilian food store says police have distributed fliers so businesses can be on alert.

"As [the] cops say, he is kind of dangerous, on drugs, always with a weapon," owner Jordan Teixeira says.

Rhonda Strickland just opened a new business right across from the bus stop and says she's been warned of the various crimes.

"If we see anything suspicious, we just ask them 'Why are you here? What are you doing?'," Strickland says.  "Usually they just move on."

Naquan Muhammad doesn't miss a chance to teach his 11-year-old son how to stay safe when he's on his own.

"I tell him to be aware of his environment. Don't speak to strangers. He knows to stay in public places where he's very visible. He knows if anyone tries to accost him, if he's ever approached by anyone, he should seek out an adult to make them aware of the situation," Muhammad says.

It's important safety information all parents should share with their kids, especially the 19,000 that ride Horry County school buses every day.  Jim Wright, Director of Transportation for Horry County Schools, says sometimes the bus stops are outside of a housing development on a busy road.

"If it's a private area, we can't go in there unless we have permission from the HOA or owner of the road," Wright says.

On Little River Road and Bay Street, Myrtle Beach Police responded to some of the same violent crimes and there are four registered sex offenders living within walking distance of the bus stop. Luckily for the kids on Bay Street, they have a neighborhood of support.

"There shouldn't be anybody down here that doesn't belong here," says Leon Todd, who's lived on Bay Street for 61 years. "If we see strange vehicles, we keep an eye on them."

For some parents, the school bus is the only way their kids can get to school every day.

According to South Carolina Law, school districts must notify parents if a sex offender lives within 1,000 feet of a bus stop.  Most districts adhere to the law by posting a link to the SC Sex Offender Registry on their website.

Horry County Sheriff's Deputies patrol the county making sure offenders are living where they're supposed to be, but like most things, making sure the bus stop is a safe place generally falls on a parent's shoulders.

"If I can move something to protect a kid and make it safer for them, we'll do that," Wright says, "And I've done that on numerous occasions."

On Bay Street, Todd says it's rare that the neighborhood kids would be standing at the bus stop unsupervised.

"Some of the parents will go down to the bus stop in the morning with the kids and in the afternoon they're down there to pick them up," he confirms.

If you can't be there to wait with your kids for the school bus, there is some advice, from one parent to another, you can teach about staying safe.

"I would suggest children always have emergency numbers that they memorize," Muhammad says. "[If] someone tries to take them away, use their voice to scream loudly and make sure they make other adults in the area aware that this is not their parent, or a loved one they are affiliated with, so they can make sure they stay safe."

Myrtle Beach and Horry County Police both say officers don't patrol bus stops during the school year, but the agencies say if a complaint is filed about any suspicious activity or person, they will send someone to check it out.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.