MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach Crime Prevention Officer Pete Woods was presented the statewide SCANA Crime Prevention Award from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officer's Association for 2013 on Tuesday for his involvement in Community Watch programs.
"We have done so much as the community and police and that is the secret," Officer Woods said.
Woods said when he started heading these groups three years ago, there were nine community watch groups in Myrtle Beach. Now, there are 23 active groups.
"When the police and the community are partners we won't eliminate all crime, but we will definitely knock the numbers down and move criminals somewhere else," Officer Woods said.
During the community watch meetings, Officer Woods explains to the communities what the current crime statistics are for that specific area, he also includes local, regional and national current crime trends.
If applicable, Officer Woods shows the community members pictures of suspicious people who may be in their neighborhood.
"It's a comfort knowing we have neighborhood watch," Seagate Community Watch Member Pat Jones said.
"In the past the only time you see police is after a tragedy when you call 911. That's lost. That is no way to be proactively knock down crime numbers," Officer Woods said.
The property manager at the Monticello Apartment Complex Dianne Dollriehs, that sits off Osceola Street, said the community used to be a place where crime flourished. Dollriehs said since the community took part in a community watch program with Officer Woods, there has been a significant drop in the number of calls for service to the complex. Add to that- there is also now a waiting list for tenants.
And then on the south end of the city- the president of the community watch group, Craig Teller said the crime has drastically reduced in his community too. Teller said there used to be on average about three significant crimes a day, whereas lately there has been roughly one or two per week.
"We have learned way before when there have been scams or people would prey on people or the elderly or any city residents. We learn about it way before it actually makes a police report," Officer Woods said.
Woods said his next step is to start involving more community members than the roughly 322 he speaks to at the meetings each month.
Officer Woods said it's crucial for citizens to understand they can remain completely anonymous when calling in a tip. Officer Woods said the number one thing he tells people is to call police anytime they think they see something suspicious.