MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A once crime-ridden neighborhood in the south end of Myrtle Beach united to form a block watch program and deter crooks, and four years later, neighbors are seeing success.
The South Myrtle Beach neighborhood, located between 19th Avenue South and 29th Avenue South, Ocean Boulevard and Kings Highway, has seen crime drastically drop since more than 250 households became part of a watch program four years ago. The watch program is a partnership between the citizens and the police department. The goal of the program is to reduce crime and make the neighborhood safer on a long-term basis.
"The prostitutes that we had on the street, they were disappearing," says Craig Teller, the coordinator or the South Myrtle Beach Neighborhood Watch group. "They were going elsewhere. The panhandlers, they disappeared. Everything improved: car break-ins, we'd have one or two a day. We hardly have any now down here."
This group does not go out driving through the neighborhood on patrol. The police department does not recommend they take actual policing into their own hands. Citizens become the eyes and ears of the police department. So instead of having one or two police patrols come through their neighborhood a night, they now have hundreds of households on a vigilant watch. During their weekly meetings, citizens have an opportunity to voice their concerns about activity in their neighborhoods and police also give them information as to what they're keeping an eye out for.
"What happens is that these people who are looking for trouble and coming into the neighborhood, once they realize that the police are going to come and they're going to be questioned, they don't come back. They move on. And that's what I think has really happened in this neighborhood. That they've come in a few times, the police have been called, and they've decided well there are better places to go than South Myrtle Beach," Teller says.
If you live in a neighborhood with a crime problem, Teller highly recommends looking into starting a watch program. The first step is to get in touch with the city's crime prevention officer. The officer can help with the initial steps of getting it up and running. And utilizing the Myrtle Beach Police Department's Police-2-Citizen website for updates on crime in your neighborhood is also a great resource to stay informed.