Population boom in Carolina Forest drives need for more police on streets

Paul Whitten talks to Carolina Forest residents about public safety in the county.

Last year, Horry County Police and Horry County Fire Rescue took in more than 240,000 emergency calls, according to public safety administrator Paul Whitten. That's almost one call per each person living here.

That high number of calls has one neighborhood wanting more police officers to lower response times.

From 2000 to 2010, Horry County increased in population by 37 percent. Much of that growth occurred in Carolina Forest.

Wednesday night, the Carolina Forest Civic Association invited Whitten and interim Police Chief Saundra Rhodes to hear the concerns of those living in the growing area.

"It's import to show how accessible we are," Rhodes said.

Among concerns from those at the meeting, response times to the growing area of the south precinct, which includes Carolina Forest.

"Carolina Forest is growing in leaps and bounds and the need for police officers; for the safety of the children and for the safety of the community and for the response times is something that is desperately needed in our area," Civic Association President Karen Young said.

Rhodes has asked the county for $17 million this coming fiscal year. That's $45,000 more than last year. Among the items on the wish list, new weapons and uniforms, and four more officers to cover the south precinct.

"I gave {the county council} two options. We looked at the cost of putting an entire precinct together for the Carolina Forest area, versus the cost of just adding some additional officers. Since the economy is so bad right now and we don't have a lot of money in our budget to fund an entire precinct, I wanted to put some options out there," Rhodes said.

At a public safety meeting a week prior, Rhodes also mentioned another five new officers to help the solicitors and sheriff's office to combat gangs.

A better picture of how many police officers could come to Carolina Forest and other parts of Horry County will come after the county's budget retreat Thursday April 26th and Friday 27th.

The county council will still need to approve a final budget with three readings at their regularly scheduled meetings.