MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – There's no question Myrtle Beach Police take water safety very seriously.
"Any time there is a loss of life, it's a very tough time for the family, but also for the officers. And it's something that we deal with and that we struggle with because it is someone that passed away on our watch," Myrtle Beach Police Lt. Joey Crosby said.
Last summer, there were 13 drownings or missing swimmer incidents in Myrtle Beach. Because one is one too many, the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Myrtle Beach Beach Patrol made it a point to change that.
"We're getting out and communicating this message face-to-face," Crosby said.
That message is clear - beach and ocean safety.
"We're at the Ripley's Aquarium summer camp, and so we are doing a lot of summer camps, and throughout the winter months, church groups, to speak with the kids directly and let them hear the information from us," Crosby said.
He added that even the best swimmers in a pool could struggle in the ocean.
"It's a very powerful body of water and a lot of times people will come here on vacation and let their guard down," Crosby said. "You never let your guard down around a body of water."
To make sure both local families and tourists understand that, the face-to-face effort doesn't end with camps and groups.
In addition to a new flag system and signage, Myrtle Beach police, beach patrol and fire rescue have put more eyes and equipment on the beach this summer. That means more people can start to have a very necessary conversation.
"A lot of people see the beach patrol trucks or the UTVs that are on the beach and they want to talk about those things," Crosby said. "So it's a way so we can talk to them and have that ice breaker to communicate with them."
So far this summer, MBPD officials are happy to say the effort is working.
At the end of the season, each agency will meet again to work through the winter and make sure next summer on the beach is a safer one too.