WMBF Investigates: Mayor calls for more officers despite 2nd best ratio in the country, tourism numbers back him up

WMBF Investigates: Mayor calls for more officers despite 2nd best ratio in the country, tourism numbers back him up

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The City of Myrtle Beach has more police officers per permanent resident than any South Carolina city with at least 1,500 people.

FBI data from 2015 shows there are 139 people per officer. That's 221 officers for 30,731 residents.

Mayor John Rhodes says it's not enough.

"We need another 50 officers," Mayor Rhodes said in a phone call Wednesday morning. He said Myrtle Beach isn't a city of 30,000 people. Rhodes says there are 400,000 more people in the city any given weekend during the summer.

Mayor Rhodes says he recently spoke with the police chief in the City of Miami. It was an effort to find out how a major tourist destination handles its police force.

"There are things they're doing I don't want to talk about right now," Rhodes said, "but I'll present them to the new chief over the next couple of weeks."

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau says the area saw 15.8 million visitors in 2016, compared to 16.1 million in Myrtle Beach. The FBI data shows Miami has 1,133 officers. If compared to yearly tourist figures instead of population, that's one officer for every 13,945 people. In Myrtle Beach, the officer-to-tourist ratio is more than five times that, one officer for every 72,850 tourists.

WMBF News did the same calculation for each of the top ten tourist destinations as defined by Forbes. Orlando's 66,000,000 tourists top the list, and it's the only city with a higher tourist to officer ratio that Myrtle Beach, 94,691-to-1. The lowest ratio belongs to Houston with 5,178 officers for 20 million tourists.

WMBF News used the most recent tourism figure reported by each city's chamber of commerce.

The comparison was also applied to tourist hot spots across South Carolina. The ratio of tourists to officers in Charleston is 11,002-to-1, in Greenville it's 14,659-to1. Other popular coastal destination like Savannah, Georgia and Daytona Beach, Florida had ratios significant smaller than Myrtle Beach's.

"It's sort of common sense," Mayor Rhodes said when asked why the tourists need to be taken into account when filling out a police force. He says the city's plan is to take its argument to the state level in January. Myrtle Beach will lobby for 10 percent of the Tourism Development Fee to go into officer hiring and retention.

In the meantime, the city is working to recruit potential officers from college campuses across North and South Carolina, according to Rhodes.

"Our guys are working hard to protect this city," Rhodes said. "Thank goodness we've got extra help on Fridays and Saturdays from SLED, the county and other cities."

The WMBF Investigation found Jamestown has the lowest officer-to-resident ratio at 19, four officers for 77 people. That's followed by Pawleys Island, Edisto Beach, Salem and Campobello. When considering cities with at least 10,000 people, the best ratio is Myrtle Beach, followed by North Myrtle Beach at 191-to-1, Orangeburg, Cayce and Anderson.

The largest ratio belongs to Burnettown at one officer for 2,782 people. Pee Dee towns Scranton, McBee, Timmonsville, Coward are the next highest. In larger cities with at least 10,000 people, the highest ratios belong to Hanahan, Goose Creek, Mount Pleasant, Port Royal and Clemson.

Nationwide, the lowest ratio for a city with at least 10,000 people belongs to Atlantic City, New Jersey at 128-to-1. That's followed by Myrtle Beach, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Gretna, Louisiana.

The highest ratio for people to officers belongs to American Township, Ohio at 12,300 residents for just one police officer. That's followed by Mount Kisco Village, New York, Shawangunk Town, New York, Alamogordo, New Mexico and Lewisboro Town, New York.

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