NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - If Tuesday's Circle K armed robbery ended in a police chase, North Myrtle Beach public safety would have used its advanced 'Nixle' alert for the first time. The chief says his department wants to see the city's true response to the system and of course, how well it works.
You may already be signed up for Nixle. About 2,000 people from North Myrtle Beach are. Those people receive everything from traffic alerts to serious crimes, but the point of the advanced Nixle system is that law enforcement can send a text or call anyone within a radius they decide as simply as drawing a shape around the area. Any phone with its locator on and inside that box will get the alert whether the phone owner is from there or just visiting.
These alerts are used only in the most serious of situations to let you know what to do to stay safe and what to look out for.
North Myrtle Beach Chief of public safety J. Phillip Webster gave an example: "Say they didn't make it out of the bank…they barricaded themselves in there...and it turned into a hostage situation. We would want to maybe draw a 'geofence' maybe around that Main Street area and warned please stay where you are, don't leave, or there will be an officer there to help escort you out," the chief said.
The city says it has about 100,000 extra people visiting on any given day from now until Labor Day So, this feature has potential to make a big difference in an emergency. The next test is scheduled for June.
The North Myrtle Beach Nixle alert wasn't used during that armed bank robbery at South State Bank North Myrtle Beach earlier this month because the robbers left the North Myrtle Beach city limits too fast for an alert. But Horry County sent out its own version, Code Red, to the at-risk areas.
To sign-up for Nixle click here: http://ps.nmb.us/2015/08/10/sign-up-for-nixle-today/
Community Policing in North Myrtle Beach
Policing has changed a lot over the years as agencies see what works nowadays and what doesn't. In North Myrtle Beach, the push for community policing has strengthened officer relationships with the areas they police for your benefit.
In 2014, North Myrtle Beach switched its field training programs to learn how to deal with daily policing situations on a more personal level. The idea came from the chief and other department leaders who graduated from a Louisville, Kentucky-based school specializing in research behind successful community policing. They've brought what they've learned home and it seems to be working.
The first quarter report for this year highlights drug violations and larceny in North Myrtle Beach, an opposite effect for drugs compared to 2015.
"My attention went directly to drug violations," Chief of Police J. Phillip Webster said.
They're not numbers, Chief Webster said, they're people. So far from January to March of this year, 93 people have been caught on drug violations, compared to 34 people this same time last year.
"The trend of heroin overdoses…that's what…it's become a public medical issue," Chief Webster said.
Other first-quarter highlights of the report are the rise in assaults, and now 12 armed robberies since January. But despite rises in specific crime, overall violations are reported to be down compared to last year. The chief says studying trends ties directly to finding patterns and his officers knowing where to be and when to be there.
"Ya know, is there a root cause for this problem? What can I do to solve it? Ya know and that's when it goes back on the officer...the individual officer and it also makes them take ownership of their community," he said.
Since the field training program updated, officers journal their days on patrol and their peers read them over to offer suggestions on improvement. Instead of officers switching from nights to days and vice versa, officers submit annual bids for either shift. The officers have a consistent patrol, encouraging lasting relationships with the people in that community.
The chief says if you need help to not hesitate to call. Saving a life is or getting home safe is always what's most important.