Councilman: "It's time to get a handle on the wild, wild west at - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Councilman: "It's time to get a handle on the wild, wild west atmosphere"

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Cameron Runyan Cameron Runyan

In the wake of a violent weekend in Columbia's Five Points, first-term city councilman Cameron Runyan wants to do away with permits that allow bars to stay open past 2 a.m.

"It's time to get a handle on the wild, wild west atmosphere down there," said Runyan. "I think it's time to shut 'em all down at 2 a.m."

Runyan's stance comes as police are investigating a random shooting and two bloody assaults that sent two young men to the hospital early Sunday morning.

The councilman believes terminating extended-hours operating permits will not be popular with business owners or those who frequent Five Points, but he thinks it's one step that will strike at the heart of the problem.

"If you take the alcohol-fueled madness out of this, none of this would happen," said Runyan. "It might not be that the offenders are drunk, but they're there because there's a large group of revelers in a confined space."

"If we don't get a handle on this, at some point there's going to be a dead child, someone's little girl in the street because we didn't act as a council," said Runyan. "It's time to send a signal as a city council that we're not going to tolerate that kind of garbage anymore."

Runyan says there needs to be some kind of change in enforcement, but making Five Points a police state is not the answer.

He says approximately 20 officers were on the ground in Five Points on Saturday night when the incidents happened. "We're asking an impossible task of the police department," said Runyan. "We're putting them in danger as well."

Business owners were to meet with police to discuss the issue on Tuesday, but that meeting has been postponed so it can be relocated to a larger venue in an effort to include as many interested parties as possible.

Runyan says he's not sure if the entire city council will support his idea to do away with the extended-hours operating permits, but he hopes something can be done soon.

"We can make it safe again," said Runyan. "But, to make it safe again, we're going to have to take a tough line with what's going on in that district. We can't continue to take the path of least resistance."

Mayor Steve Benjamin released a statement Tuesday afternoon highlighting council and CPD's efforts to curb crime in the entertainment district.

"Today, although overall crime in Five Points is down 26%, there is more work to be done," said Benjamin in the statement. Under Chief [Randy] Scott's leadership, merchants, residents, visitors, and anyone hoping to cause problems should expect a more aggressive police presence, a low tolerance for loitering and traffic control measures that may limit vehicular access for nonresidents in residential neighborhoods."

Benjamin says city council will review the 2 a.m. bar closing ordinance and see if they need to take a "different course."

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.

  • What can be done to curb violence during late night hours in Five Points?

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