Despite violent weekend, statistics say crime is down in Five Points
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Despite a shooting and a violent fight this past weekend in Five Points, Columbia Police crime statistics show violent crime has fallen by 14%.
Police say it's progress, but merchants continue to fight an uphill battle with public relations.
Five Points Association Executive Director Merritt McHaffie has heard it before. "At this point we ask ourselves, 'What can we do?'" she said.
McHaffie said the thousands spent on security cameras and the addition of call boxes were meant to deter criminals and reinforce the idea of a safer Five Points.
McHaffie said it's a hard sell sometimes, when so many of her patrons are carrying cell phone cameras and don't hesitate to post photos or videos to Facebook.
"I think crime is everywhere, people are more aware of it in Five Points because there are more people here and because we have an eye on it," said McHafffie.
According to Columbia Police records, robbery is down 14% and aggravated assault dropped 12%.
We don't have a breakdown of the last 3 1/2 months from last year to make an accurate comparison. But with football season picking up, Five Points is expected to be busier as the new year approaches.
McHaffie says there's a lot of work left to do.
"We just want to get around the table," said McHaffie. "Look at each other in the eye and say something has to be done and we have to take it seriously."
On Tuesday Columbia's police chief said an increased number of patrol officers are going to take an aggressive stance against those intentionally causing trouble there.
Chief Randy Scott's announcement came as his officers continued to investigate a random shooting and two bloody assaults that sent two young men to the hospital early Sunday morning.
The chief said his officers would be extra aggressive this weekend and looking for underage drinkers. He's hoping to crack down on the crowds that spill out onto the streets.
Although police say violent crime is down in the entertainment district this year, Scott acknowledged there are still issues.
"It is a place of hospitality," said Scott. "It is a place where we are inviting patrons to come. You are going to have people that have a mindset to do wrong."
Scott promised that more attention will be paid to underage drinking, adding that groups of people who just seem to hang out on the corner with no intention of going to a business will get a visit from his officers.
"If you are doing nothing more than just loitering out on the sidewalk and bumping into people and causing nothing but discontent," said Scott, "that is also not going to be tolerated."
Meanwhile, those who own businesses in Five Points are frustrated with the negative news that often follows these types of incidents.
After spending tens of thousands of dollars on security cameras and cooperating with the city on a teen curfew, business owners say they not sure what more they can do to help keep the peace.
"It's a partnership between us and the police department, but at the end of the day, at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it's not the Five Points Association and the board of directors standing out here trying to make things safer, it's the police," said McHaffie. "We rely heavily on them and we will continue to rely heavily on them now."
"This is not saying they don't do a good job, but we sometimes feel as helpless as they are with some of our issues," said McHaffie. "We just want to get around the table and all look at each other and say something has to be done and we have to take it seriously."
"I think crime is everywhere, people are more aware of it in Five Points because there are more people here and more eyes on it," said McHaffie.
The city has already invested $90K in putting extra officers on patrol in Five Points, but Scott promised more officers will be in the area this weekend and he'll have 40 men and women on patrol after the Georgia game on October 6.
Scott also said K9 officers could also be utilized.
The chief also said he will work with city council to try to strengthen the city's loitering laws.
If you know anything about the incidents in Five Points over the weekend, you are urged to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
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