HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Following years of talks of adding a police station to Carolina Forest, Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill has begun making preliminary plans to see it come to fruition.
"The overall feeling that they're here would be beneficial. I think it would also be beneficial for those who might be thinking of doing potential harm in this area to know that there's a police precinct presence." said Bo Ives, former president of the Carolina Forest Civic Association.
Hill told the CFCA at Wednesday night's meeting that he put together a staffing plan and budget for a police station in Carolina Forest.
He said this is a preliminary step to identify what the station would look like and how much it would cost.
Hill added he sees it as a public safety building for both police and fire. However, it could take years to make it happen.
He announced his plan Wednesday to Carolina Forest residents because he said people are talking about the need for it.
Hill said the county-wide police response time is on average 11 to 14 minutes, which is longer than the national response time of six to seven minutes.
"There is a problem with response times because this is a big county. Once there is a station here, that will at least make us feel like the police are more accessible," Ives said.
The most common calls police get from Carolina Forest involve car break-ins, burglary, theft and reports of suspicious people.
The owner of Rose's Kitchen, Bill Meldrum, said he feels protected as is.
"I think the police respond to any problems very rapidly," he said. "I believe there are a number of police officers that live in the Carolina Forest area and they take their cars home, take their cruisers home and they respond very rapidly. I haven't seen any situations, accidents or thefts that the police haven't responded in an orderly fashion."
His own business was broken into three years ago and he thinks police did their job.
"I called the police and when I found out about it, which was the next day, they were here within 15 minutes," he said.
Ives said the station would also be more convenient for people needing to pick up police paperwork.
He said he would like to see it happen after funding is first dedicated to better pay for police officers.
Lisa Bourcier, spokesperson for Horry County, said this has been on council's radar, but it does not have a funding source. A $1.3 million addition to the west precinct was budgeted for this fiscal year as part of the capital improvement plan.
A Carolina Forest precinct is not yet budgeted and is not part of the five-year plan, according to Bourcier. That is voted on every year through the budget process.
Horry County Councilman Bill Howard, a Carolina Forest resident, said he is sure people would love to have a station there to cut down on response times.
He added council would have to find special funding for it.
Bourcier said the county owns 34 acres where Carolina Forest's recreation center and library are, and there is more land that has not been used yet. That includes a nearly three acre piece of land down the road.