Chief: Police patrolling plan for Five Points, Vista 'not sustai - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Chief: Police patrolling plan for Five Points, Vista 'not sustainable'

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Columbia's new police chief says the way his officers are patrolling trouble spots like Five Points and Main Street downtown are not sustainable in the long term.

It's just day six on the job for Chief Skip Holbrook, and, half joking, says he's surprised things have gotten so busy so quickly.

"I thought I was going to get a honeymoon," said Holbrook. "I don't know if that's accurate, but I've definitely jumped in with both feet."

In his first official address to Columbia City Council members, Holbrook laid out a strategy for what he calls Columbia's "hospitality" areas -- the popular, profitable hot spots -- but they've also attracted negative press recently for violent crimes.

Holbrook wants more officers dedicated to these areas, raising the number in the Vista and Main Street from four to eight and five to 12 in Five Points.

Right now, there are 12 officers normally patrolling Five Points, but seven of them are working overtime after coming off of other patrols.

Councilman Moe Baddourah questioned the overtime issue.

"Once you assign these individuals, are you going to cut down your overtime completely?" asked Baddourah.

"Overtime would be reduced, we would not be paying as much overtime because we'd have budgeted strength for on the ground staff," said Holbrook.

Holbrook says there's only a limited amount of money set aside in the budget for overtime and he says the department has used almost all of it.

"It's a good stop gap strategy, but it's not sustainable. And of course we have to be sensitive to the quality of life of the police officers we're taxing with the extra duty. That wears on your mental and physical state at times," said Holbrook.

But manpower's only part of the equation. Holbrook says enforcement also has to change in these areas, like reducing the number of drinks one person can order from the bar at a time, banning troublemakers, and closing off alleyways and monitoring parking lots like the one where a man fired several shots into a moving vehicle in Five Points at the end of March.

"I'm not reinventing the wheel here or identifying something they haven't already identified, but what you'll see is we have a team approach, and we'll make logical decisions based on accurate information," said Holbrook.

Nothing was voted on today, but Chief Holbrook says the reception he got from council members, gives him the impression they liked his plans.

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