Larry Sypolt's plan for public safety

As the only mayoral candidate with significant law enforcement experience, I am asking City Council members, Mayor Steve Benjamin, and the City Manager to put politics aside and implement the crime plan I have created for the City of Columbia. The safety of our citizens and the future development of our city hinge on a strategic and practical plan.  We need to make certain the City and police department are doing everything they can to prevent another tragedy.

My campaign centers on making Law Enforcement the top priority in our beloved city. I am asking that the following changes be implemented immediately. My plan addresses not only Five Points but also all communities in Columbia.

Five Points

  • The majority of the PACE Team officers need to be in plain clothes.  We need a uniformed officer presence of no more than four officers and a minimum of four pairs of plainclothes officers in Five Points. Criminals and gangs are constantly learning better methods to carry out criminal activity.  Having plainclothes officers will reduce a potential offender's ability to operate beyond the eyes of the law and will keep potential criminals in Five Points guessing. This will allow law enforcement to stay steps ahead of crime.
  • All Five Points cameras need to be on an Internet network feed.  With this Internet network feed, video can be viewed live remotely at dispatch if given access.  This is a valuable tool that needs to be viewed live and not after an incident occurs.  The solution is to be PROACTIVE in regards to crime.
  • Loitering laws need to be vigorously enforced.  Businesses that are deemed a nuisance or a proponent of the criminal activity should be rigorously assessed.  The City needs to partner with these businesses to reduce the effect they have on our city.
  • Columbia Police Department (CPD) leadership, i.e. lieutenants and captains, need to work nights and weekends in Five Points until the issues are resolved.  With additional experienced leaders on the ground, we will see a more serious emphasis on change and a drastic reduction in crime.
  • The City needs to ask the USC Police Department for more assistance protecting students and the community.
  • We do NOT need to change hours of operations for Five Points businesses.  Local business should not suffer because the City has failed to address our most important issues.
  • Patrols also need to be increased around the surrounding neighborhoods of Five Points.

City Wide

-          The approved citywide camera system needs to be revised. The new camera system needs to be implemented within each community to address their needs. The approved City Council plan would install cameras at busy intersections throughout most of the city.  These cameras will NOT deter crime.  Each camera needs to be strategically placed around key entry and exit points in communities and also near public areas and those with high incidents of crime.  This change in the camera system provides better coverage for the public and deters potential crime.

-          Currently, the city purchases patrol vehicles for officers.  We need to move to a lease program so officers will have newer and more dependable transportation.   A lease system will address the lack of usable patrol cars the CPD is currently facing.

-          A minimum of a 10% pay increase for all officers needs to be implemented.  After this initial pay increase, a pay for performance plan needs to follow, giving officers yearly raises dependent upon their work. The salary of officers in the CPD is insufficient and does not reflect how vital they are to our city.  These men and women are on the front lines every day, and they are severely underpaid.  The CPD has witnessed scores of experienced officers leave as a result of the approved salary stipulated by City Council.  We CANNOT continue to allow good officers to leave our city for higher paying jobs.

-          A tuition reimbursement and retention bonus program for the CPD is an additional recommendation as to how we can retain top talent in Columbia and attract top talent from other agencies/areas.

City Government and Leadership

-          The City needs to accept any and all assistance Richland County Sheriff's Department (RCSD) is willing to provide.  RCSD possesses better resources already paid for by the citizens of Columbia.

-          The City needs to name a permanent CPD chief immediately, giving him the authority to run the Police Department completely.  The safety of our citizens and officers is at risk until we have a chief who is allowed to make any and all decisions necessary to run the department.  If the chief cannot act without interference from the City Council, Mayor, or City Manager, the police force will be unable to fight crime and provide the residents of Columbia with adequate safety.

Challenge to Council and Mayor

I am calling upon each and every member of City Council to look at himself or herself in the mirror and ask if they have done everything possible to secure the safety of our citizens.  My campaign revolves around the law enforcement issues of our city.  The upcoming election should not affect the decisions that so desperately need to be made NOW.   We have experienced several unfortunate tragedies, and we cannot allow another one to occur.  I challenge every single one of you to execute my crime plan and move the Columbia Police Department forward.  Immediate change is necessary in order to address the crime issues threatening our city, our businesses, and our neighborhoods.