HCS looks into private security to replace HCPD school resource officers

HCS looks into private security to replace HCPD school resource officers

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Schools is looking into various options for security in schools, including hiring private armed security guards.

"It's just important that our parents and our kids feel safe in the school systems and that's our goal to make sure that that happens," said Holly Heniford, school board member for District 1. "They will be qualified. They will be trained. I feel very confident in the direction the superintendent is moving into."

Horry County Council budgeted $245,837 for 21 school resources officers for next school year, Horry County spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said.

That leaves the school district responsible for a larger portion of the costs, $1.6 million, which includes items such as police vehicles and technology, Heniford said.

"It doesn't really make a lot of sense for us to pay for items and cars that we don't need," she said. "These items, the electronic equipment that they're wanting us to pay for for patrol purposes, are not what we need for our schools. We don't need them to have vehicles. They're just going to sit in front of the schools and get old."

HCS spokesperson Teal Britton added the county offered to continue providing SROs, but the "substantial increase in cost" went beyond the district's reach and responsibility.

Horry County Schools already has a contract with U.S. Security Associates for security guards, but the national company also offers armed security guards who would have specific credentials and training with the authority to make arrests on school grounds, Britton said.

Those guards would work for school administration rather than the police department.

"There is a slight advantage to having private security because they work directly for us, they never leave the school unless we allow them to," Board of Education Chairman Joe DeFeo said.

In a letter to David Beaty, coordinator of student affairs and school safety for HCS, Ed Leitgeb, district manager for U.S. Security Associates in Myrtle Beach, said 18 officers for 180 days of school, working eight hours per day would cost $536,544, or $20.70 per hour.

He also quoted the school district for eight-and-a-half-hour workdays, costing $550,057.

Heniford said she believes this option could save the school district money.

"That means that we can put more money toward the students, toward laptops and new equipment and things like that for the school," she said.

Britton said the county could also benefit from the school district using private security because they could return to the police force and relieve the current pressure on the department for recruitment and hiring.

The Horry County Sheriff's Office has also put in a proposal for school resource officers, costing the school district $2,788,167 for 19 first class deputies, one sergeant and one lieutenant the first year. Those same employees would cost the district $1,569,194 the second year.

The topic is on the agenda for Monday, June 19, at 6 p.m., with a presentation of proposals from HCSO, HCPD and U.S. Security Associates.

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