By Paul Gable
Much has been made about the extra money from accommodations tax that will be available to purchase the services of extra police for next year’s Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
Thanks to quick work in the General Assembly, approximately $2.3 million dollars will be allowed to be diverted from tourism marketing and promotion to law enforcement costs next year.
I have even heard some talk about some of that money being used for private security firms, such as Blackwater Security, if a few additional changes can be made to state law to allow it.
Suffice it to say if the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce wants state law changed to allow Blackwater Security to patrol the streets of Myrtle Beach on Memorial Day weekend, it will probably happen.
Hopefully such a plan will work out better than it did in Iraq. But, don’t count on it.
The problems that allowed crowds to get out of control in the south end of Myrtle Beach during Atlantic Beach Bikefest can’t be solved by extra police presence during Memorial Day weekend only.
Extra police presence may be successful in keeping Myrtle Beach out of the negative national news columns next year, but that isn’t the real problem. It does, however, seem to be the focus of the Myrtle Beach Chamber, Myrtle Beach City Council and Gov. Nikki Haley.
Don’t allow anything to interfere with the ‘family beach’ image that the Chamber and city council project to the rest of the country.
But, what of the families that live in the south end of Myrtle Beach?
What will be done to stop the armed robberies, home invasions and shootings in the south end of the city the other 360 or so days a year?
With the overwhelming majority of city council members living in the north end of the city, probably much the same that has happened in the last decade – not much.
The real problems in the city were magnified by the Atlantic Beach Bikefest crowds, not caused by them.
Crowds, like water, move to the path of least resistance. When the police presence in the south end of the city is insufficient, that will naturally become the gathering place for potential problems, as it was on Memorial Day weekend.
Until city hall understands that Myrtle Beach is one city, not two divided by 38th Avenue North, and all areas of the city deserve the same quality of life expectations, the underlying problems in Myrtle Beach will continue.
And they can’t be solved by throwing extra money at them one weekend a year. They must be looked after 52 weeks per year or all the new sports complexes, municipal improvement districts or casinos won’t make a difference.