MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The City of Myrtle Beach put plans to patrol from the air on hold for now.
Last month city officials announced plans to buy a gyrocopter with funds seized during drug busts, but now police will not take to the skies this year.
Instead of spending $207,000 on the aircraft, the money will go towards a new mobile command center for police.
Myrtle Beach City Spokesperson Mark Kruea says multiple shootings over Easter weekend made getting a mobile command center a priority because of the need for a more visible police presence.
“The idea behind the gyroplane is that it’s sort of an invisible asset. It flies unnoticed above and can keep watch on things, but we really need a visible presence on Ocean Boulevard. So, having a mobile command center, something that you can park and would say ‘Myrtle Beach Police’ on it would certainly be a benefit,” explained Kruea.
Myrtle Beach Police say the mobile command post would also benefit the city during large scale events.
“The mobile command can be used on many of the large scale special events we have such as bikeweek, the country music fest and the Sun Fun Festival. So, it gives officers a place to go where they can do their paperwork or conduct their investigations. When we have these large scale events it’s also our center of operations for our incident command system,” explained Lt. Joey Crosby.
Lt. Crosby says that currently, the city has to rely on outside agencies during large-scale events and having their own command center would mean they could use it during many other events. The command center is expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000.
“If it gets approved in the budget, then it probably would exist late summer, I don’t think we’d have it for this summer, probably after Labor Day,” said Kruea.
But the change doesn’t mean the gyrocopter won’t eventually go into service.
“It’s a good tool. It’s not terribly expensive. It’s got a good safety record. I think we’ll look at it for the 2018-19 budget probably,” said Kruea.
If drug seizure money is used to purchase a gyrocopter, the city would have to pay for maintenance and fuel through the general budget, but officials say that didn’t play a part in the change to a mobile command center this year.