MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach prepare for Governor Henry McMaster's visit Thursday, all eyes are on Myrtle Beach after a national reaction to recent shootings and safety concerns. Although the visit was planned before June's violence, discussion topics for the governor's visit have now shifted, reminiscent of former governor Nikki Haley's visit in 2014. Myrtle Beach's city spokesman said the city will discuss with the governor how to pay for more state agencies to assist Myrtle Beach public safety, and how to get immediate safety changes.
"That's certainly part of the conversation . . . is the state willing to pay for that extra officer expense at the state level, or do we need to share some of that cost? Certainly, Myrtle Beach contributes greatly to South Carolina's economy," said Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea.
Kruea said in order to see immediate safety changes, he thinks more police visibility is the answer. With more police on the street, people are less likely to act up if they see that presence, he explained.
"Now certainly we're reaching out to our local youth so they are not involved in this. We're experiencing it though from people who are coming from Charlotte in this instance. People coming down here to settle a score, show off, to do these foolish things. We need to get the message back to them that this is not the place to do it. And then whatever we can do to help their communities teach those folks not to do those illegal acts," Kruea said.
Most of the trouble is being caused by people coming from out of town, he said.
When three people were murdered over Memorial Day weekend in 2014, former governor Nikki Haley came to the beach. The city worked out with the state to take a portion of accommodations tax money to pay for more state agencies to come to the beach Memorial Day weekend only. That became law. According to documents provided by the city, that's cost about $1.5 million annually out of the accommodations tax pot for May assistance.
Also since 2014, Kruea said 800 surveillance cameras have been added to downtown. Thanks to those cameras, he explained, police were already on their way before the shooting happened near Fifth Avenue North this past weekend.
Former Governor Haley helped allocate state resources only through accommodations tax, which had to be lobbied and passed through South Carolina state government. Now, it's proposed to take some of Myrtle Beach's tourism development fee, TDF, to pay for state agencies throughout the summer to provide assistance.
Changing where the tax money goes, because it's a state tax, will have to be passed by the state before the city has the money to pay for additional resources. This is why it will not be an immediate, obvious safety change you'll see downtown.
Currently, the TDF money is split 80/20. 80 percent is regulated by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for advertising dollars, and 20 percent going back to the city. Now, it's suggested to be split 70/20/10, with 10 percent going directly to the Myrtle Beach Police Department for more officers.