Senior Week alcohol busts aim at education, not arrests

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Grand Strand is a place for families, adults and kids to have fun, but some teens' bad decisions can put both their - and your - safety at risk.

Reporter Will Whitson got an inside look at one of the busiest times of the year for alcohol enforcement, and the intense challenge those officers face nightly.

When the sun sets in North Myrtle Beach...

Sun, sand, surf, everything that makes the perfect family vacation, but when the sun goes down over North Myrtle Beach, police officers see a much different picture.

WMBF News rode along with Officer David King and his men for two nights during "Senior Week." Within minutes of leaving the police station, Officer King was already pointing out where we'd see trouble later.

"It's like one big circle. That's why the numbers are so increasing," King explained.

In two nights, our cameras followed the team as they broke up house parties and arrested about a dozen teens. But Officer King says the priority is not bringing the kids to jail.

"We're not out here to bust. The main goal of the program is to educate the kids before we do any kind of enforcement action. We're trying to tell them what the consequences are, not just the ramifications criminally."

The consequences of underage drinking

"How many of you have scholarships?" Officer King asked one group of teens caught with alcohol.

One of them answered, "We do."

Officer King then explained, "Alright, this young lady right here, what does your scholarship say about alcohol and drug charges? Not good? What does not good mean? You don't get your scholarship."

Later the alcohol enforcement team encountered an aspiring teacher. "Oh, so you want to be a teacher? What kind of lesson is this teaching your kids?"

Officer King and his alcohol enforcement team are on the streets in North Myrtle Beach almost every night. When our cameras rode along, none of them had taken a night off in a month.

"The guys who are on this team have a passion for it. They have children of their own, so you've got fathers heading out here, dealing with these kids," boasted Officer King.

"You probably have this idea that 'Hey it's not going to happen to me.' Little boy from North Carolina thought that same thing. Now he's a paraplegic," said Officer King as he recalled the story of a teen who fell off a deck at a house party, to a group of kids caught drinking underage.

But sometimes these kids don't get the message, or they just choose to not listen to the message at all. If that's the case they could end up behind bars.

"We do mug shots for 'em, fingerprint them when they come in the door, and there's the harsh reality of the cell we take them too," commented NMB Corrections Officer Michael Frye.

If the kids they bust are respectful, they just make them pour out the alcohol, and they'll check up on them a few days later.

In one case, the team made an arrest because the kids were driving with open containers, had marijuana, as well as something else even more dangerous.

"He's gonna get charged with unlawful carry of a weapon, cause he ain't allowed to possess it. The other's gonna get charged with minor in possession of alcohol," charged Officer McLeod.

In other cases recorded by our cameras, a teen made the split-second decision to run, but he didn't make it far.

The officers on the alcohol enforcement team had planned to make him pour his drink out, but after he ran, he was charged with resisting arrest.

Officer King says the kids they come in contact with are respectful. They do what they're told and they realize, at least for the moment, the consequences of their actions.

"We're opening some of these kids' eyes. If I go into a house of 30 kids, I'm hopefully reaching five or six of them and changing their lives with this program," cries Officer King.

Just one week after this ride along, the alcohol enforcement team in North Myrtle Beach joined the Horry Cast Coalition for a coordinated sting, making arrests for alcohol, marijuana, even crystal meth.

Senior week may be the busiest season for Officer King's team, but the task keeps them hard at work year-round. It's a tough job which often isn't seen by the public, and they're hoping to change the lives and perspectives of as many teens as they can, maybe even saving the life of the teen you love.

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