City council approves permanent curfew, extra surveillance cameras

Published: Aug. 16, 2011 at 9:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2011 at 9:07 PM EDT
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By Jody Barr - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia City Council's Public Safety Committee wants more surveillance cameras in Five Points, as well as new cameras in the Harbison and Vista areas. Police say the cameras Five Points businesses put up more than a year ago have helped solve dozens of crimes.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the council voted to spend $100,000 on cameras for Columbia's hospitality districts. Council said the city manager will come up with a specific process for allocating the funds, which must be requested by a business association.

The council also passed first reading of a measure making the temporary youth curfew in Five Points permanent. The second and final reading will be held on August 23.

Soon, nearly every step you take in the heart of Five Points could be caught on camera. The area already has more than 50 security cameras, scanning the streets and sidewalks. Now, the businesses there want 28 more.

"It helped judges secure convictions," said Five Points Association President Scott Linaberry. "It was quick, swift justice."

Linaberry says Columbia police have already used the cameras to gather evidence in dozens of criminal investigations. Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott says the city could never hire enough officers to do the job the cameras can do. "Having those cameras will add extra eyes and ears into areas for us that we need," said Scott.

"Better safe than sorry than to end up with an incident down here," commented USC freshman Alec Chamberlain

Chamberlain plans to carry on the Carolina tradition of going out in Five Points, and wants someone watching his back. "I definitely think it'll create a feeling of safety here," he said. "Maybe privacy is a concern, but safety is definitely a number one issue down here."

"I've heard it's very dangerous walking around Five Points at late night," added USC freshman Wesley Cosby. "Safety has to be the number one issue, the most important factor for USC students. They can't be worrying about their privacy issues if they're in danger."

"They're going to go where they know we're not looking," said City Councilman Sam Davis.

Davis says limiting the cameras to the city's hospitality areas will force criminals to do their crimes in other parts of the city. "The city has to box everything in, rather than us just chasing people to try and give this group, that group a sense of comfort," said Davis. "You have to do it for the entire city."

Council is also looking for money to put cameras up in other areas where Columbia police are working to identify as problem areas.

If this plan is approved, Scott says the cameras could be up and running by the end of the week.

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