MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Myrtle Beach city leaders say with no major violence, few road deaths, and fewer overall arrests, Memorial Day weekend bikefest is considered a success.
Barricades for the 23-mile traffic loop in effect over the holiday weekend were removed by Tuesday morning. Numerous bikers voiced their concern over the traffic loop, blaming the traffic pattern for the smaller turnout than in years past.
Myrtle Beach city leaders say the loop isn’t going anywhere.
“We were very pleased with the reduction of violent crimes at this year’s event,” states Lt. Joey Crosby.
It’s an event that maxes out Myrtle Beach police, city, and surrounding agency resources. Nearly every first responder was working overtime and more than 500 additional police officers were brought in to assist Myrtle Beach.
Additional officers and a 23-mile traffic loop were added after a violent 2014 where eight people were shot and three others killed during Memorial Day weekend.
Lt. Crosby says the security plan works.
“Our goal was to create a safer environment for the community, the attendees and for the law enforcement personnel that came to work the event and certainly everything we have done both for the agency and as a task force has been done with that objective in mind,” explains Lt. Crosby.
Lt. Crosby says city and county officials are still calculating the number of arrests that occurred over the holiday weekend, but he confirms fewer people were arrested than in previous years, with the majority of arrests being drug-related.
“That’s why we have narcotics officers that are assisting officers with those case files,” explains Lt. Crosby. “So, I think it would be very unfair to confine that to one event. It’s something that we’re dealing with nationwide.”
Despite pushback from some bikers and the NAACP on the traffic loop, Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen says this weekend proves the loop works, and it will be back next year.
“It’s done what it’s designed to do in terms of mitigating the size of the crowd, the congregation of folks, and I think it’s been part of the success,” predicts Pedersen.
Pedersen says this past weekend will cost the city around $1 million, even after a smaller crowd and peaceful bike rally.
“I don’t think that it’s time to back up on this,” says Pedersen. “I think that is a good investment in order to have a safe event and that we don’t have a repeat of some of the events that we had in 2014, which tainted the country’s perspective of what Myrtle Beach is about.”
The Myrtle Beach Municipal Court handled 202 cases over Memorial Day weekend. Pedersen confirms that’s fewer than previous years.
Officials say a county-wide meeting will take place late this summer for officials to discuss what worked well and what they may look at changing for next year.