So we've had a few pretty rough days here in Myrtle Beach, and I'm almost certain civic leaders and folks inside the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce are wringing their hands wondering what to make of this terrible situation.
If you've been completely out of the loop, then you may have missed a spate of gunfire last weekend: a shooting at Coastal Grand Mall Saturday around 4:30pm (to me, the most troubling), then the more infamous of incidents late Saturday night / early Sunday morning on Ocean Boulevard, and reports of shots fired Sunday night around 9pm at the Dunes Village Resort.
I say the shooting at the mall troubles me the most because it happened in broad daylight at a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists alike. If we're being honest, locals avoid Ocean Boulevard almost all the time, and most certainly once the sun sets; not because of a perceived "danger," per se, but because we all know it's congested and the sidewalks are crammed with kids, teens and young adults being immature kids, teens and young adults. No thanks.
That said, there are extenuating circumstances that local leaders are going to have to address - and soon.
First off, I know Mayor John Rhodes and council have long wanted to rid the city of blight-worthy aging no-frills motels between Kings Highway and the ocean; they have to step that effort up, somehow. There are places low-budget guests stay that I wouldn't let my pets stay in. One way to do this might be to step up some municipal standards. I'm not a fan of putting a small business out of business, but if said business is causing the city headaches, it has to improve or it has to go.
Then there's the high turnover within the police department. A Salary.com survey shows Myrtle Beach's average (not starting, but AVERAGE) officer pay below every city of size in the state. Starting pay? It's worse; somewhere between $30,0000 - $33,720.00 according to the city itself.
That's going to have to change. No matter the business or government agency, high turnover is bad for quality of service and bad for morale, too. That might mean - gasp - a property tax increase. City and country residents pay a low rate thanks to tourism dollars carrying us; won't do us much good if crime runs the tourism industry off. We gotta pay up, I believe.
Let's start there, and then start having MORE uniformed and undercover officers on Ocean Boulevard between May and October.
Then, can we talk about tough a spot it puts our law enforcement officers in when bills advancing "permit-less carry" become the latest NRA-fed fantasy? Listen, I've heard all the rhetoric before: criminals won't abide by new laws. So why are there laws, period? Literally, EVERY criminal has violated or ignored a law, so why have 'em?
I'll tell ya why: because the goon on Ocean Boulevard Saturday night shouldn't have been out in public with a gun in his jean pocket in the first place and had there been an officer on that block who'd seen him, that officer might want to ask him what he's doing with a pistol in such a large crowd in the first place, which might lead to further questioning about documentation and legal or illegal possession, etc., and so on.
When states pass "permit-less carry," cops suddenly are less likely to ask those kinds of questions out of fear they'll be accused of profiling.
I've lived here nearly ten years and love where I am; I'm also not stupid enough to think national headlines won't frighten tourists off. This area is THE economic engine for the entire state, and we have to do something to reverse the perception that Myrtle Beach is a "gangsters' paradise" one way or the other.
Thanks for letting me vent. Now let's FIX THIS.