Police departments using technology to widen the 'thin blue line - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Police departments using technology to widen the 'thin blue line'

Lt. Joey Crosby, Myrtle Beach Police Department. Lt. Joey Crosby, Myrtle Beach Police Department.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The mission of every police department is pretty straight forward.  They must try to keep your city and the people who live in it safe by getting the most out of the resources they have, but sometimes it isn’t that easy.

Police departments on the Grand Strand deal with a huge surge in the population in the summer months when tourists come to town.  Horry County police have to cover an area about the size of Rhode Island, with just a fraction of the resources.

State Senator Greg Hembree saw the issue first-hand while serving as solicitor up until 2013.

"Horry County was the department struggling with manpower and there's no other way around it - that's a straight up funding issue," Sen. Hembree said.

The funding issue did improve this summer when county council opted to raise the millage.  The move meant more could be spent on the police force.

Currently the department has about 260 officers.  The number has grown under Chief Saundra Rhodes.

She made a plea to the county and she’s been able to add more detectives and street crimes unit officers to help fight the county’s gang problem.

Even with the new hires, the staffing is far from perfect.  By some estimates, the force needs to double in size.

It’s a similar situation in Myrtle Beach. The police department is just now getting back to pre-recession staffing levels with nearly 300 employees.

Technology and new surveillance cameras posted throughout the city are already making a difference.  Recently they helped police quickly identify and arrest two suspects following arson at two motels.

While these cameras and other advanced technology have helped MBPD lower the crime rate in recent years, police say nothing replaces an officer on the street.  However, getting those officers, even when there is money in the budget, can be tough because recruiting isn’t as easy as it used to be.

"We didn't really have to do much now we are realizing we have to get out to the military installations, colleges, and universities around us because be have a lot of good, qualified departments," MBPD Lt. Joey Crosby said.

Getting new hires through training and the academy also takes time, and space in classes is limited.  Even if a department had the money to make 20 new hires today, there’s typically only a handful of spots available at the academy.

North Myrtle Beach has a Department of Public Safety, which is a combination of fire crews and police officers that allows the city to stretch its resources during times where the population jumps from about 15,000 to 100,000.

Another new step taken to help stop any violence on the North Strand is a new crime analysis expert.  This employee is responsible for tracking crime trends in the city so police can maximize their efforts.

It’s these techniques police will continue to use to get the most out of their current force until local and state governments choose to put more money into public safety.  Sen. Hembree stresses the level of help isn’t where it should be.

"We do provide money through the local government funds, general money back to the local governments, we have not funded that adequately," Sen. Hembree added.  "I've been a co-sponsor of the bill that would raise that funding to its formula levels and I think we should pay it hopefully we can get back to that with some of the surpluses that we have but that will not solve the problem.”

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