‘Continue to serve and protect’: Local law enforcement implements changes during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Continue to serve and protect’: Local law enforcement implements changes during COVID-19 pandemic

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Police chiefs and sheriff’s in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee are assuring residents’ that public safety is still their number one priority during the coronavirus pandemic.

But law enforcement is implementing a few changes on how officers handle calls in order to keep them safe and healthy.

Below are letters from police chiefs and sheriffs on what’s being done to make sure officers and communities are out of harm’s way.

HORRY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT

Team Horry,

Our community, like so many others, is facing an unprecedented challenge. Through it all, Horry County Police Department is committed to excellence in preserving public safety. In this moment, promoting public health is a primary component of that mission.

In adherence with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, HCPD is working to reduce the spread of COVID19 through social distancing while still maintaining service to the public. We are working to limit any unnecessary exposure, for our community members and personnel, by utilizing remote service tools whenever and however possible.

For property-based and non-violent crimes, community members are encouraged to file a report online using the HPCD CopLogic incident reporting tool: http://police.horrycounty.org/ContactUs/CitizenReports.aspx

For non-emergency calls, community members should call 843-248-1520. When and where possible, officers may conduct follow-ups for non-emergency reports by phone.

Active incidents and emergency situations where a life-threatening risk is present must still be reported to 9-1-1.

When officers do respond in-person, they may ask the caller to step outside to talk and/or utilize additional personal protective equipment, such as gloves or a respirator, if needed.

It is our hope that, by adopting these practices that have shown success in other impacted areas, we may protect and promote the health of those in our own community.

Thank you for your continued support as we enter into this challenging time. Please stay tuned to this page, as well as the Horry County Government and Horry County Emergency Management pages, for updates as this situation develops.

Stay safe,

Chief Joe Hill

MYRTLE BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT

Dear Myrtle Beach Community,

During this challenging time, the Myrtle Beach Police Department is committed to providing continuous service to the public. We also are working to ensure the safety of community members and our staff by limiting any unnecessary exposure.

As a reminder, we can take reports for crimes that are “not in progress” through online reporting and to conduct follow-up reporting by phone to gather information and resolve a call. This service can be accessed online via our P2C website (http://p2c.cityofmyrtlebeach.com), where city residents and visitors may file non-emergency reports.

Of course, if you have an emergency, call 9-1-1, and Myrtle Beach police officers will respond promptly. Our dispatchers may ask additional questions during this health emergency, including whether you have traveled internationally or have any flu-like symptoms. Please report any non-emergency calls to 843-918-1382. When officers do respond in-person to a call for service, they may ask you to step outside to converse as an added safety measure for both the caller and our officer.

Thank you for your continued support. For additional information, please continue to follow us on twitter @mbpdsc and Facebook at Myrtle Beach Police Department and the city government page on twitter @myrtlebeachgov and Facebook at Myrtle Beach City Government. You can also visit our website for updated information on police department services.

Sincerely, Chief Amy Prock

FLORENCE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

This Office will continue to serve and protect the people of Florence County while mitigating the potential exposure to and transmission of the coronavirus. The purpose of this letter is to inform the public and our local law enforcement partners of the common-sense policing approach which we will observe as we monitor this public health crisis.

Our citizens should continue to call 911 for emergencies. To reduce the spread and exposure to our deputies, when appropriate, the deputy may ask you to simply step outside your home while providing information. In addition, we may attempt to respond to a non-emergency call by telephone where possible. This will not apply to any emergency calls where immediate contact may be necessary.

To our local law enforcement partners, we request that you exercise judgment and discretion when considering the arrest of suspects. Unless a custodial arrest cannot be avoided, for the protection of the detention center staff and inmates, we suggest and encourage the use of citations for most non-violent offenses.

Inmates currently booked into our detention center are screened by our medical staff for symptoms of Covid-19 and the facility is following a disinfectant regime for inmates and staff which includes, among other things, routine hand sanitizing. All inmate visitation is by way of video teleconference with the exception of attorneys and their clients.

We will continue to stay in touch with our citizens as well as our state and federal partners as we work through this situation and will adjust our actions as necessary to protect our citizens and our staff. We appreciate your cooperation and support as we move forward to a return of normalcy soon.

Sincerely, William C. Barnes Sheriff of Florence County

SURFSIDE BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT

UPDATE with March 19 letter from Chief Hofmann:

I wanted to take a moment to touch base with the Surfside Beach community. I want to let everyone know that the members of the Surfside Beach Police Department understand that everyone is on edge during this confusing time. Many of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes.

Please rest assured that we are working daily to ensure the consistent and reliable delivery of police services to the community. We are protecting your first responders and the community by limiting face-to-face contact during routine calls for service.

We will take reports by phone when practical. Please understand that your officers will be exercising reasonable caution, but will be thorough and professional. Our staffing remains at standard levels and priority calls will be handled as usual.We would ask that everyone remain calm during these times.

Please drive safely and obey traffic laws to avoid accidents AND being stopped by the officers. Public safety is a community effort and we can all work together to get through these unknown times.Our restaurants and bars will suffer financial difficulties while they are mandated to be closed. Please patronize our local food establishments and utilize their curbside or take-out service if you are able to.

Thank you to our residents for understanding our temporary operations until we get past this event, and to the affected businesses for obeying the Governor’s order to restrict dine-in and outdoor dining service.In summary, your police department is fully functional and ready to serve the residents and businesses. If you need us, please call the police department at 843-913-6368 or “911” in an emergency.

Chief Kenneth Hofmann

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Dear Surfside Beach community:

I wanted to take a moment to reassure our residents, visitors, and business owners that the Police Department is taking steps to ensure we provide services while we also protect the safety of our officers and staff. This is a challenging time for all of us. As State and local officials, including Surfside Beach, continue to push information out regarding COVID-19, we will work with our team members, community members, support organizations, and visitors to take the best precautions to mitigate any unnecessary exposures. This will include using best policing practices.

Starting Monday, March 16, 2020 at 6:00 PM, the Surfside Beach Police Department will begin implementing a modified approach to handling calls for law enforcement service. Complaints of crimes that are “not in progress” and do not pose an immediate risk or threat to safety may be initially handled by an officer over the phone. An officer may make contact with the complainant or victim by telephone to appropriately handle and resolve the call. We are also working on a way to report minor incidents electronically as an option for the public.

I want to assure each of you that the safety and well-being of our community is of the utmost importance to the Surfside Beach Police Department. These changes will not result in a decrease of available officers or less officers on the street. If you have an emergency, please call 9-1-1. Calls that involve individual or public safety will continue to receive an in-person response from a police officer. As always, non-emergency calls for service can be made to 843-913-6368.

When we receive a call, our dispatchers will be asking some additional questions. The focus of these questions will be to determine if the complainant, victim, or person at the location has traveled internationally, has had any contact with a person believed or known to have the COVID-19 virus, or has any flu like symptoms. This will allow our first responders to properly prepare when they respond to the location. While our building will remain open and operational, we ask that you contact us by phone or email unless visiting us is absolutely necessary. In addition, in order to reduce the spread and risk of exposure, officers may ask persons to step outside of their residence or business to talk when responding to a call for service. These measures are intended to protect both community members and our staff.

The Surfside Beach Police Department, along with our public safety partners, will continue to provide services to the community during the coming weeks while COVID-19 remains a public health concern. I, along with each member of the department, thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely, Kenneth Hofmann, Police Chief, Surfside Beach Police Department

FLORENCE POLICE DEPARTMENT

The Florence Police Department will continue to provide high quality services to our citizens and business, while minimizing the risk of exposure and transmission of the virus, through the COVID-19 crisis.

In this effort, we will be following the CDC guidelines of maintaining a distant of six feet, whenever possible, when interacting with the public. Officers may ask to meet outside of your residence, business or vehicle for not emergency situations. Non-emergency reports may be taken over the phone, however, our citizens should continue to use 911 for emergency calls for service.

The Florence Police Department is also suspending some meetings and courtesy programs temporarily. The Citizens’ Police Academy, Police Ride Along program and fingerprinting services have been suspended at this time.

We will monitor this situation, adjust our practices and provide informational updates when applicable to ensure the safety of our citizens, as well as our employees. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation during these challenging times.

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