The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office plans to put more emphasis on safety downtown during the first First Friday since two people were brutally attacked on the riverwalk after last month’s event, but a potential storm could alter the plans.
First Friday attendance usually increases starting in June, but with the effects of Tropical Storm Andrea expected to hit the area through Friday, attendance could be lower than expected.
“As the crowd grows (with summer) so does the sheriff’s office (presence),” Lt. Lewis Blanchard said. “We’ll have more people out, but specifically more on foot patrol.”
On May 3, Wesley Spires, 27, of Edgefield, and Ashely Solesbee, 25, of North Augusta, were robbed and beaten with a metal bat or pipe while walking on the riverwalk during their first date. They suffered facial fractures and head wounds. Spires remains hospitalized. Police have made arrests in the case.
During community meetings, city leaders said they believe downtown is safe but there’s a perception that it isn’t. Commissioners and the sheriff’s office began working to create a plan to make downtown safer and destroy that perception.
Blanchard said E-Z-Go has donated two golf carts to the sheriff’s office to assist with downtown patrols. Sheriff Richard Roundtree has planned to drive one of them Friday.
“He’ll be out personally supervising the area,” Blanchard said.
Deputies patrolling downtown will also be paying more attention to things beyond law enforcement, he said.
Blanchard said deputies have been told to include all broken streetlights and other items such as missing sewer grates, overgrown shrubbery, broken traffic cameras or graffiti in their nightly reports so the information can be passed on to the appropriate agencies.
“We’re basically looking for anything that can take a proactive approach,” he said.
The sheriff’s office hoped its new team of reserve deputies would be available for First Friday, but workers’ compensation issues have delayed their start date.