Drugs prompt expansion of Surfside Beach K9 Unit
SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Surfside Beach is often referred to as “The Family Beach” of the Grand Strand, but recently its police department realized it needed more help to stop dangerous drugs from moving through town.
The Surfside Beach Police Department developed its first K9 team in 2014. Since starting patrols last June, K9 Biko and Cpl. Julian Ziolkowski have completed more than 256 searches. Reports show most of those searches were drug-related, resulting in 124 arrests as of July 15, 2015.
Together the team has recovered narcotics like meth, heroin, marijuana, hydrocodone and numerous tools of drug paraphernalia.
Lt. Kenneth Hofmann, spokesman for the Surfside Beach Police Department, says marijuana and heroin are the two most commonly-found drugs on the streets of town.
“Here in the Town of Surfside Beach, we are a family beach and we are not going to tolerate user-level drugs,” he explained. “I think anytime there is drug activity – whether it’s just passing through or whether we have someone that’s purchasing user quantities of drugs – that poses a problem to the community. We want to treat it like it’s a big issue here.”
Treating it like a big issue prompted the department to add K9 Viking and Officer Michael Manemeit to its patrols. The team was placed into service on May 22, and deployed 14 times that month. Those deployments resulted in 5 drug arrests and the seizure of marijuana and heroin.
“We found so much success when Biko was deployed, but because he was assigned to a shift with his handler, we found we only had K9 coverage 25% of the time. If Biko was on nights, we had days that weren’t govered. Then there was the other half of the schedule where a K9 wasn’t available unless we called Biko out. What we found is that Biko and his handler were really being overworked through callouts,” Hofmann explained.
Officers say utilizing the two K9 units on traffic stops not only helps to detect narcotics, but provides extra reasoning to execute searches.
“When you deploy a K9, he’s a key to a safe you couldn’t open prior to having him,” Officer Michael Manemeit explained.
Both K9 Biko and K9 Viking are finding large success in detecting narcotics on popular roads like US-17 Business and main thoroughfares through Surfside Beach. However, Ziolkowski told News13 the town’s small size often makes it difficult to stop suspicious people and vehicles.
“From what I’ve seen, I would say that most of the folks that are being charged live nearby, but outside of the town,” he explained.
While both K9 Biko and K9 Viking continue to detect narcotics on the streets of Surfside Beach, the K9 Unit as a whole has cost the town very little. Hofmann says both K9 Biko and K9 Viking were donated to the department, in addition to a majority of their training. The town continues to support the team through a dedicated fund.
News13 also reached out to neighboring police departments to compare the number of K9 deployments in Surfside Beach. Officials provided the following K9 Unit statistics since January 2014:
Myrtle Beach Police Department: 338 deployments between 1/1/2014 and 7/7/2015
North Myrtle Beach Police Department: 66 deployments resulting in 54 arrests between 1/1/2014 and 7/7/2015
Horry County Police Department: 464 deployments resulting in 134 arrests between 1/1/2014 and 7/14/2015