HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Whether the talk is about growth in the county or police department response times, giving the department money will help put more officers on the street to maintain and improve the community, according to Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill.
In November, Horry County residents will have the opportunity to have their voices heard when it comes to allocating more money toward public safety.
Hill said more money will help increase response times, shrink the response area for patrol officers and provide better coverage for the public.
Although there’s still a lot to discuss and decide, Hill said essentially more money will make the job more attractive to potential officers, giving them a broader pool of applicants to choose from.
It could also add to the resources out on the street, like the possibility of adding a Carolina Forest precinct, adding another 41 positions to the police department and allowing other areas of the county to pick up more police officers.
“With the new referendum we are discussing a brand new facility, maybe an existing facility, that we can retrofit so we can have it as a base of operations,” said Hill.
Hill also touched on the vacancies the department is working to fill right now.
“Currently I have 10 patrol vacancies,” said Hill, “I’ve got six on my desk right now, certified officers that I’m going to go through, but that number fluctuates when people retire, resign or are terminated. So that number is always revolving.”
Hill says anytime there is an agency the size of Horry County, they’re going to have openings. They usually fluctuate between four and 15 openings at a time, but they like to keep it down below five, if possible.
Frank Parini lives in Horry County. He said he’s in favor of getting more money to public safety and said the police department is spread thin as it is.
“They don’t have enough police officers to patrol the entire county,” he said. “We question funding for everything in this place in this county. Police have to be the top priority.”
“The administration and the council wants us to put together a package,” said Hill. “That’s what we’re working on now, on what it would take to keep pace with growth.”
Hill said providing specific details is difficult right now because they’re still in the preliminary stages, but the police department is planning on sitting down with other county officials to talk through it.
Another focus of his is response times. Hill said right now the county’s average response time is 11 minutes, while the national average is between six and eight minutes.
“Priority one calls are still very good,” said Hill. “So if you call in a robbery in progress, you’re going to get an officer there six minutes or less on average. It’s the other calls – suspicious person in the neighborhood, someone broke into my car..”
It also depends on the time of year. Hill said response times go up during the busy summer season when traffic on U.S. 501 becomes congested.
The department is also working to lower the homicide rate. Hill said right now the county is at about nine homicides, while 2015 and 2016 both saw 23 homicides.
He attributes the decline to HCPD’s aggressive law enforcement efforts over the past several years and partnerships with federal agencies. Hill said the police department is working hard to put an end to crime in certain areas around the county, which has helped the homicide rate to go down.
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