Another Atlantic Beach Bike fest has come and gone, and in it’s aftermath Myrtle Beach residents are expressing their frustrations over the event, which has once again lived up to its reputation of being a weekend-long crime wave. WMBF News and other local, online media outlets are filled with reports this morning detailing several armed robberies, at least two shootings, numerous assaults, fights, domestic disturbances, drug sales in broad daylight on the streets, larcenies, and a laundry list of minor offenses ranging from public intoxication to urinating in public.
More than 1,000 crime reports were issued in the in the four-day period from Thursday to Sunday. In case you’re wondering, that’s more than ten-percent of the crime reports for the entire year. A larger police presence was promised this year, and it was delivered. No doubt things could have been worse, but the heavier law enforcement presence wasn’t enough to prevent Myrtle Beach from being inundated with rampant criminal activity. However, most resident’s complaints aren’t with how the police handled the crime associated with the rally. They understand there is little police can do in the face of such a massive influx of people, many of whom have no respect for the law or the people who live here.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take, I honestly do not know what it’s going to take,” one resident, Linda Griffin, told WMBF.
Ask most residents and they will say the only solution is to end the rally. Myrtle Beach successfully drove the Spring Harley-Davidson Rally out of town for the most part, even though that rally never presented the kind of problems associated with Bike Fest. The Harley-Davidson-sponsored event is now largely centered around the Murrells Inlet area, south of Myrtle Beach. While it was once frustrating for residents due to noise and traffic problems, the Harley-Davidson rally was never accompanied with this kind of lawlessness on such a massive scale. It never brought to town the shocking amount of violence that comes every year with Bike Fest, which is also known as Black Bike Week.
The Myrtle Beach Police channel topped the list of most-popular live audio feeds over the weekend, and anyone who spent time monitoring that feed will likely scoff at the notion that this Atlantic Beach Bike Fest was a success, or that it wasn’t as crime-filled as in past years. For literally four straight days the radio was constantly active with new calls. Over-worked law enforcement would clear one call only to be dispatched immediately to another. No, there was no triple murder this year, but this rally was just as violent and out of control as it has ever been in the past.
The 23-mile traffic loop that was designed to ease congestion on the streets of Myrtle Beach seems at first glance to have had the opposite effect. One problem with the traffic loop is that many rally attendees simply ignored it. Numerous calls went out over the weekend relating to people moving barricades, cutting through residential neighborhoods, and driving around the barricades into lanes reserved for emergency vehicles.
If residents only had to deal with traffic issues, there would likely be some grumbling, but residents here are used slow-moving traffic during the summer months and wouldn’t object to Bike Fest unless there were genuine safety concerns. Heavy traffic is a given here during the tourist season, but the the problems with this rally go well beyond getting stuck in traffic.
Many residents fear leaving their homes during the Bike Fest. Who can blame them? Racial comments and threats are common complaints from those who are forced to venture out to go to work or run errands during the rally. The number of armed and strong-arm robberies rises dramatically over the four-day weekend. Add to this open drug sales, sex in vehicles, and other types of behavior that are unacceptable in public. It is common to see these types of things occurring during Bike Fest, even in the presence of families and children.
Griffin said that she and other Myrtle Beach residents had high hopes that the rally would be kept under control this year, but those hopes quickly faded as the weekend wore on.
“The police said, that they are going to enforce our laws. We have noise ordinances, why are they not being enforced?”
After four sleepless nights, Griffin and her neighbors said the problems associated with Bike Fest are only getting worse, along with the attitudes of many who come here to take part in the event. Confronting them is all but impossible, she said.
“You know why are you doing this? They just cuss you out, as to… you know, they have no respect, they have no respect for themselves! You don’t use the bathroom in public!” Griffin told WMBF reporter Lisa Gresci.
Griffin says some of the riders were using Chester Street and First Avenue North as a drag strip, and that the noise continued all night. Griffin said it makes it impossible for people who live in the area to sleep for the entire weekend.
“They are just laying the rubber down and it’s going all night long – you can hear it from two to three blocks away,” Griffin said.
Police say they added extra patrols to cover side streets, but with an estimated 300,000-plus in town for the rally, it is impossible to put enough police on the street to combat the crime and noise.
When the official crime numbers are released, it’s likely Myrtle Beach residents will be told that most of the crimes were minor, and that’s true. They will be told that many of the crime reports were not related to Bike Fest, that may not be so true. Obviously not every crime reported over the weekend was related to the rally, but it is impossible to deny that the vast majority of the crimes committed here over the last four days were a direct result of Bike Fest.
Local officials are already trying to put a positive spin on this year’s event, but residents who lived through the nightmare are not convinced. Tweaking the traffic loop next year is not the solution. Ending the rally is the only way to make Myrtle Beach safe again on Memorial Day Weekend.
One local resident, Georgia Bonchak, told the Myrtle Beach Independent Examiner that the positive spin that has come from local leaders about the lack of crime and violence during this year’s Bike Fest is like, “telling Abraham Lincoln’s wife ‘other than the minor disturbance, it was a great play.'”
Several vacationers said they would not return to Myrtle Beach in the future, because they were told when they made their reservations that it was a “family-friendly” beach, and they felt like it was false advertising that they weren’t warned of the event when booking their trip. Of course, one could argue that it is your own responsibility to know what’s going on in the location you plan to visit.
In any case, this was once a huge weekend for families, the kick-off to the summer season. Families cannot come here on this weekend now. It is simply not safe. Going out into public is akin to walking into a war zone. Those unsuspecting families who come here for Memorial Day are often trapped inside their hotel rooms. Even going to enjoy the hotel pool is out of the question in many cases. The reason for the holiday, to remember and honor our fallen heroes, is overshadowed by debauchery and crime.
Our residents deserve better. Vacationing families who choose to spend their Memorial Day holiday on the Grand Strand deserve better. Several people who spoke to the Myrtle Beach Independent Examiner said they would not return to Myrtle Beach in the future because of what they have witnessed over the past few days. This event is a stain on the reputation of the Grand Strand and it must end now.