MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — After a ‘successful’ summer season, Myrtle Beach Police Department (MBPD) leaders hope to hire more officers to relieve to relieve the shortage.
Both MBPD leaders and city leaders said 2021 was a successful summer, especially considering the amount of tourism the city saw.
“We had a year that we had so many people in this city and everybody worked together to keep people safe, and that to me is incredible,” Chief Amy Prock said.
“There is a lot of noise and a lot of fake media outlets trying to paint a much different picture,” Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “The fact that we have record numbers of people and our violent crimes, our Part 1 crimes have been down double digits, four years in a row. For a season to be as busy as we’ve had and for there not to be any increases, that’s the story that needs to be told; because it is not fair to our police department out there working in the heat, working while they are short staffed, overtime, having these fake stories out there about what’s not happening in our community.”
While MBPD and city leaders said Myrtle Beach is not following the national trend of a significant increase in major crimes, there is one offense Myrtle Beach officers reported this year than usual — vehicle thefts.
MBPD officers said their partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and use of technology like license plate and fingerprint readers as well as the City cameras helped them solve cases quickly.
Pfc. Cody Kolb says he sees himself as a career officer in Myrtle Beach. He’s worked the nightshift on Ocean Boulevard for three summers but said going into this busy season felt different.
“Due to our current staffing levels, there was a very different feeling coming into the start of the summer for me,” Kolb said. “I knew that we had a big challenge ahead and I needed to dig down deep to do more with less. The energy it took to get through this past year was exhausting. I’ve never felt more drained in my career and the grind it took to make this summer such a success is not sustainable at the officer-level moving forward.”
“Calls for service have remained consistent throughout the years despite being down 50 to 55 police officers,” Pfc. Ron Chambers said. “This shows that we’re doing more work in 2021 with less officers.”
Captain Eric DiLorenzo with MBPD is passionate about officer wellness.
“They are under an enormous amount of stress just from day-to-day if you tack on the national sentiment, just the demand they have for being a Myrtle Beach Police officer; long hours, hot environment, very, very busy,” DiLorenzo said. “We have to do more to make sure they are at the top of their game.”
DiLorenzo tells News13 officers have access to peer support groups and mental health providers through department referrals, but he wants to create a more ‘robust’ officer wellness program.
“There is still a stigma attached to talking to a mental health professional,” he said. “Officers are worried about the implications of that if they do share, that they may be deemed ‘not fit for duty.’ This isn’t about that. This is about them having a safe place where they can unpack some of that stress, talk in a very safe environment, so they can get some of that stress relieved from them.”
Department leaders hope promoting wellness and ’embedding it in their culture’ will help recruit and retain officers.
“Every agency is going after the same applicants,” he said.
DiLorenzo says the department also streamlined the hiring process to get officers hired and onboarded faster by getting the vetting process and necessary testing and results turned around faster.
So far this year, DiLorenzo says more than 400 people have applied to the department, but most did not make it past the vetting stage of the process.