Listening to Myrtle Beach officials explain their lack of preparation for a surge in visitors last weekend, one message became clear.
They cannot be blamed.
The police chief pointed a finger at the business community for not giving her department a heads up about a last-minute influx of tourists. The city manager attributed the spike to a type of quarantine-related cabin fever.
Multiple times, city officials spoke of public safety being a “shared responsibility.” If that’s the case, city leaders didn’t seem interested in accepting their share of that responsibility.
It’s not the business community’s fault that visitors packed Ocean Boulevard Sunday. It’s a miracle some of these businesses are even operating after the COVID-19 shutdown.
Many of those still hanging on are working in a much different environment, one with capacity limits and additional regulations.
They are also facing an uncertain future because it’s unclear what type of summer they will see. Will all the restrictions be lifted? Will there be a second wave of the virus and another shutdown? And the nightmare scenario: What if a hurricane comes on top of everything else?
Blaming the business community or the coronavirus for not ensuring the police department is prepared comes across as callous and a weak copout.
Managing public safety resources primarily rests on the city’s shoulders. Expecting understaffed and cash-strapped businesses — many of which were forced to close because of government mandates — to guide the police response is unfair and unrealistic.
Myrtle Beach leaders have said they will learn from last weekend’s struggles and they are bringing in 120 additional officers to help police Memorial Day weekend crowds. Barricades and one-way boulevard traffic are possibilities, depending on the crowd size.
We hope that helps and we certainly don’t want to see the violence that erupted in the Ocean Boulevard area last weekend.
That being said, regardless of what happens, city officials need to accept responsibility for their police department’s preparations and response.
In recent years, Myrtle Beach property owners have been asked to support the city’s public safety improvements. Last year, city officials raised taxes to pay for 10 new officers.
The community is doing its part. It’s time for the city to do the same.