By Paul Gable
Myrtle Beach residents began contacting members of Horry County Council this week requesting help with public safety problems in the city.
This is not as ridiculous as it sounds. After all, they are paying for it.
Countywide tax millage is paid by all property owners throughout Horry County. The Horry County Police Department is funded from the county’s general fund whose main revenue source is countywide tax millage.
City residents pay an additional level of taxes (citywide millage, fees and the like). The Myrtle Beach Police Department is funded from the city’s general fund whose main revenue source is the additional citywide tax millage.
Therefore, citizens living in Myrtle Beach pay taxes to fund two police departments. Yet, crime is rising. There have been 14 murders in Horry County (including six recently in Myrtle Beach) so far in 2014. There were 13 murders throughout the county in all of 2013.
The city has proved unwilling, unable, or both, in keeping the streets of Myrtle Beach safe, especially in the south end. As a result, some property owners have turned their attention to the county to ask for help.
However, that may not be a solution. While residents of the city were suffering through a weekend of lawlessness in the south end over Memorial Day (three murders, six shootings, numerous rapes, robberies and so on) the county police were holding a press conference proudly announcing they had arrested two vendors selling fake Gucci bags in Atlantic Beach.
And it’s not just Memorial Day.
While the body of a man with multiple gunshot wounds was discovered in a car at 9th Avenue South and Yaupon Drive in Myrtle Beach over the weekend, Horry County first responders were holding a drill, IN NORTH CAROLINA, practicing response to boating and jet ski accidents.
There does seem to be a question of priorities here. Is it too much to ask these agencies to concentrate on providing the most urgently needed services to the citizens who pay for them?
Over the last decade, Horry County has taken the lead in upgrading and integrating its public safety communications system with the cities throughout the county. Millions have been spent on fiber optic cables, radios, laptops, notebooks and on and on.
We have heard that next year, funding to upgrade the base system that drives these communications will be required in both the county and city budgets.
So far, it has been a gross waste of money. What good are all these gadgets if they are not used to support what should be the top priority of these various agencies and departments?
Namely, protecting the citizens who pay the taxes used to buy all these gadgets and the salaries of those who use them.
We now, reportedly, have two task forces engaged in looking for solutions to the problems experienced during the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
They better be looking far beyond that limited scope to determine how the various public safety agencies throughout the county can best coordinate providing maximum possible public safety protection year around to the citizens who pay for those services.
Otherwise, we may all be better buying a boat and moving to Bird Island.