Councilwoman asks for deputy 'surge' during spring break

August 1, 2011 

Inebriated, rowdy college students on Hilton Head Island apparently gave the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office a run for its money over spring break.

And one town councilwoman has a solution -- treat 'em like an insurgency.

"Like the surge in Afghanistan," Councilwoman Kim Likins said of a proposal to add patrols in late March and early April by paying off-duty sheriff's deputies. They would provide a presence near North Forest and South Forest beaches, where many students rent vacation homes.

Likins said the patrols would deter the drunken frivolity that has angered many residents in the beach community.

Likins pointed out during a town Public Safety Committee meeting Monday that the town sets aside about $50,000 a year to pay four to six deputies to patrol bars on weekends, issuing tickets and making arrests.

"We started the bar patrol to address the issue of violence in the parking lots of these bars, which has declined because of the presence of those deputies, and we believe a similar plan will work well in this situation," Likins said.

Figures were not immediately available for calls for service, tickets issued or arrests made in the North Forest and South Forest beach areas during spring break.

Sheriff's Capt. Toby McSwain told the Public Safety Committee, of which Likins is a member, that the volume of calls during spring break wasn't particularly high, but there were enough trouble spots to tax the department's manpower.

"You'd get a call at 12:30 in the afternoon where students are already drunk, and (the calls would) last into the early morning," he said. "The colleges gave us a run for our money this year. You had 100 kids around a pool so drunk they can't stand up."

McSwain said the Sheriff's Office has met twice so far with property owners associations in the area to talk about revelers' late-night noise, public urination, vandalism, littering and disorderly conduct.

"We issued tickets and made arrests this year," McSwain said. "Hopefully by bringing deputies in next year, we can eliminate some of the problems, by being more aggressive."

The island should be welcoming, but visitors should follow the law, Likins said.

"They need to know there are repercussions for their misbehavior," she said. "These are homes, not hotels. And the chances of accidents happening are far greater with the numbers of people and alcohol consumption. The residents have reached the point where they feel law enforcement needs to be involved, needs to be proactive."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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