Horry County Schools approves contract with private security company to supply 18 SROs

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) –  The Horry County School Board unanimously voted to approve private security company, U.S. Security Associates (USSA), to supply 18 armed guards next school year.

“Tonight the school board had a very important decision to make,” said board member, John Poston, after the vote on Monday night.

Members had the option to choose between sourcing officers from the Horry County Police Department or the private security company.

The estimated annual cost for 18 armed guards from USSA is $550,000 for the 2017-2018 school year.

The cost of utilizing 18 officers, 1 “rover” and two sergeants through the Horry County Police Department was estimated to cost $1,650,000.

There are 18 campuses located in the unincorporated areas of Horry County that will utilize security services for the 2017‐2018 school year. They are: Carolina Forest High School, Green Sea Floyds High School/Middle School, North Myrtle Beach High School, Socastee High School, St. James High School, Horry County Education Center, Academy for Technology & Academics, Academy for Arts, Science & Technology, Ten Oaks Middle School, Black Water Middle School, Ocean Bay Middle School, Forestbrook Middle School, Loris Middle School, North Myrtle Beach Middle School, St. James Middle School, Aynor Middle School, Socastee Middle School and St. James Intermediate School.

“We want our children to be safe, we want them to be secure in their environment while they’re there, but we want our officers to be friendly also. We want the children to approach them,” said District Manager for USSA, Edward Leitgeb. He made a presentation to the board along with Chris McWilliams and John Halpin, and said they recruit heavily on retired military and current and retired law enforcement officials.

“My son also attends Horry County, said McWilliams. “I have a lot of interest in this and I gotta make sure every child is safe.”

The guards will take several training courses in U.S. Security Basic Training, School Safe/Security Training, Active Shooter, Advanced Liability and Legal Aspects, Anti-Terrorism Training and mandated SLED training.

School Board Chairman, Joe DeFeo, said he hopes the new contract will allow for more control of personnel.

“When you have private security, their job number one is to stay there, secure the schools and keep the kids safe,” he added. “Although I understand that’s obviously part of an SRO’s job, they’re also law enforcement officers on a regular, full time basis so it gives us a little more control over the officers.”

The school district currently has a contract with USSA for a few unarmed guards.

“I’ve never had a complaint from anybody, anywhere about any of their unarmed officers,” said DeFeo.

News13 has reached out to the Horry County Police Department to ask how the former SRO’s will be utilized.