‘Pay now or pay later’: Grand Strand law enforcement responds to SC’s rising violent crime rate

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 11:13 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Law enforcement leaders in South Carolina call it an alarming issue, and they want the public to be aware.

The violent crime rate has been increasing.

According to data from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, there was a 25% increase in the number of murders last year.

“I’m particularly troubled by the steady increase in the number of murders,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said during a news conference Thursday.

Keel says the number of murders, aggravated assaults and arson cases all saw increases in 2020, but the number of murders caught his attention the most.

The state has seen a 51% increase in the past five years, according to Keel.

In the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach has actually gone against that trend. In fact, the number of murder incident reports has actually slightly declined since 2015.

“[We’ve] not seen the significance as we discussed today fortunately in Myrtle Beach, ” Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said at Thursday’s press conference. “But obviously we consider to be concerned about this across the state and with our partners.”

One of those partners is just further south.

Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver says the county has felt the state’s trend in violent crime first hand.

“We have seen murders rise in our county by 20% from six in 2020, to already five in January through May of this year,” he said.

While the homicide rate in Georgetown County is up significantly, Weaver says domestic violence issues are down 16% and robberies are down 80% from this time last year.

Keel is pushing for state legislation to increases the punishments for violent and drug-related crimes. He’s also advocating for longer sentences and changes to the bond system to try to reverse those trends.

On a local level, Weaver is hoping the message reaches elected officials who determine how much funding to put toward new public safety positions.

“If Georgetown County refuses to act and making sure we have enough law enforcement staff on the streets, then somehow Georgetown County is going to pay for that down the road,” said Weaver.

Weaver is hoping to counter the violent crime rates by asking for eight new deputies.

”You can have all the economic development you want, you can have all the tourist destinations that you want. But if it’s not safe, people aren’t coming,” he said. “That’s where we are. That’s where the elected officials that are tasked with making these tough budget decisions, that’s a decision they’re going to have to make. It’s either pay now or pay later.”

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