Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Downtown Augusta is safe, community leaders say

PROTECTING CITY'S 'HEARTBEAT'

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:00 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:25 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

Augusta leaders and members of the downtown community concluded at a gathering Wednesday that downtown is safe, but admitted that, unfortunately, perception is reality.

Back | Next
Former Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek (second from right) addresses Commissioner Bill Fennoy's comment about the possible installation of security cameras along Riverwalk Augusta to deter crime.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Former Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek (second from right) addresses Commissioner Bill Fennoy's comment about the possible installation of security cameras along Riverwalk Augusta to deter crime.

Augusta Commission member Corey Johnson said he was “very disturbed” by the events that taken place downtown, but “this is nowhere near as bad as it seems.”

“Let me say this for the record: Downtown is not a dangerous place,” Johnson said. “But these things happen, and it’s unfortunate they happen here.”

Speakers agreed that it’s important now to put a plan in place to protect “Augusta’s heartbeat” from crimes and a bad reputation.

About 50 people gathered on Riverwalk Augusta at a forum organized by the Downtown Augusta Alliance to get ideas on increasing safety after a series of incidents.

Just before midnight on May 2, a Beech Island man was assaulted and robbed as he left the Riverfront Pub, 531 Broad St. Police said he suffered a concussion.

Less than 24 hours later, Wesley Spires, 27, of Edgefield, S.C., and Ashley Solesbee, 25, of North Augusta, were hit with a metal bat or pipe as they sat on a bench on Riverwalk Augusta near the former Fort Discovery.

They suffered facial fractures and head wounds.

Spires remains in critical condition. Solesbee was released Monday from University Hospital.

On Monday, a video surfaced that showed a Broad Street brawl that ended in what sounded like gunfire. Police suspect the brawl occurred April 27.

Despite the cluster of incidents, police and city officials said violent crime downtown is rare.

“Downtown is a safe area,” Commissioner Bill Fennoy said. “I think when incidents like this happen it is sensationalized in the press. We have $50 million to $70 million invested in Reynolds Street. We don’t want the message outside of Augusta to be a message that downtown is not a safe place, a place you can’t bring your family.”

The commission is discussing putting cameras downtown as a deterrent.

Richmond County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said the sheriff plans to meet with City Administrator Fred Russell to discuss increasing patrols downtown.

Clayton said Russell is trying to find money to do that and to improve lighting.

The sheriff’s office is also planning to increase the presence of its bicycle patrol. The two bike officers patrol downtown during the day, but he hopes to extend it into the night.

In the meantime, the office is trying to shift resources to better cover downtown.

Johnson expressed the importance of reaching out to the city’s youths to show that violent behavior won’t be tolerated.

Former Commissioner Andy Cheek, who was in the crowd, expressed concern about the effectiveness of cameras on the riverwalk, an area with lots of trees.

He said he was also concerned about the length of time it would take to install them.

“We need boots on the ground immediately,” he said.

He presented the idea of putting plain-clothes “invisible” officers on the street.

Fennoy responded by saying he didn’t think it would be a good idea for Sheriff Richard Roundtree to announce his plans publicly.

“I’m quite sure we have a sheriff that will listen to the demands of the people and will address the issues,” he said.

Fennoy said he plans to work with downtown property owners to offer a reward and to have a fundraiser for the victims of last week’s crime.

Comments (76) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
countyman
19718
Points
countyman 05/09/13 - 07:49 am
2
1
The article uses the term

The article uses the term downtown, because most people automatically know their talking about the CBD. People can easily see the article is not focusing on the housing projects on East Boundary in East Augusta, or people walking around Laney Walker.

Are the residents of the CSRA visiting Harrisburg, Laney Walker, etc for the nightlife compared to the Central Business District.

Do the millions of visitors each year coming to Augusta seek out East Augusta or the Central Business District?

Are the most expensive hotels in Augusta located in the CBD or Turpin Hill?

The article is clearly focusing on the Central Business District, and not any surrounding neighborhood.

Augusta is no different from any other city when it comes to wealth poverty. Stop trying to make it seem like other cities don't have East Augusta or Summerville in the same county.

diamond in the rough
45
Points
diamond in the rough 05/09/13 - 08:00 am
2
0
Riverwalk SAFE?

STOP TALKING AND START DOING! Take action you all know what has to be done DO IT! Take charge keep AUGUSTA SAFE! TAKE BACK AUGUSTA!

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/09/13 - 08:29 am
2
1
Reminds me of the grumbles

Reminds me of the grumbles about the time that the Respect Downtown initiative was brought by the private sector. Why can't the people and/or City of Augusta carry that vim and vigor all the way? Enough with the bandaids yall, this is about staying alive isn't it?

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 05/09/13 - 08:41 am
0
0
the city can be made safer by
Unpublished

the city can be made safer by augusta getting out of the public housing business, tear down all the project except those for the elderly. then enact and pass ordinances mandating landlords be that "landlords" to police their properties on a regular basis install a compliant line or clearing house where homeowners living near sec 8 housing can report and then the clearinghouse contacts the landlord and inform him what is going on the nature of the complaint and inform him he must do something or risk very large fines (to the tune of $5000-first offense). this i am sure will get the attention of the missing landlords who in turm may stop renting to the thugs, drug dealers, welfare queens, and other leech, moochers. and parasites (who are looking for nothing more than a free "gubiment handout"). then build more and bigger jails to put the "monkeys in" for a very long time. enact a profiling and stop and frisk by the cop of all suspicious looking individuals this will have a detriment to all of the monkeys who go down town looking to rob and steal

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7385
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/09/13 - 09:54 am
0
1
I've been to other Riverwalks.

Specifically San Antonio during Fiesta, and Bourbon St in New Orleans and felt safe the whole time I was there. That included day and night time. While homeless people were visible at time they never accosted anyone for money, and I never felt threatened. Also, before visiting, while there and after leaving both places I searched for reports of violence in both places and guess what? There were not any reports of assaults or robberies in areas designated and known for being heavily visited by tourists! I felt safe in those places. If they can do it then maybe ARC should take some lessons, and no that doesn't mean a County Commission Road Trip!!!!

Brad Owens
4287
Points
Brad Owens 05/09/13 - 10:04 am
3
0
Again, Action not words is needed...

This event seems to have been more of a rally than a true summit to gather ideas and start looking for solutions which is what the organizers touted it as.

There will be serious discussions and planning done I am sure, but usually the idea is to get some sort of public display of "I'm OK, you're OK" on the news to try to change the debate and focus of the news cycle.

The problem with this approach to assuaging public fear about the safety and security of downtown, and why it will fail here this time where it has worked in the past, is my simple principle of propaganda; Propaganda is not good or bad, just effective or ineffective.

Just look at the reports on TV News stations about the event yesterday and what is being said here, then look at the video and other news associated with the melee, the car jacking and attack of the couple to see why things like this will not work this time.

Images compared; Look at the pictures of the beautiful scenery and the Riverwalk in the bright early morning sunshine with several law enforcement personnel in plain sight and then ask yourself, is that more powerful that the video of the ultra-violent melee, or the fractured skull of the firefighter and his lady friends smashed face?

Compare them and tell me which footage/images contains TRUTH that the public will absorb; politicians talking about moving forward, or the ultra-violent thug footage?

I appreciate the ideas behind this event, but we need some serious planning done and action to be taken. Almost everyone I have heard from that went said this was a complete waste of their morning.

Anyone who thinks that the actual damage done to the safety and security perception of downtown, long term and lasting, can be fixed without real action being taken is just not in reality.

Cameras are great for catching criminals after the crime is committed, but without folks watching them and a response team to dispatch, it's all just so much blather. Besides, how many gas stations ate NOT robbed due to cameras?

ACTION, not words please.

Brad

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7385
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/09/13 - 10:15 am
3
1
Camera's

Camera's are defeated by a hoodie sweatshirt every day!! Don't put all your eggs in this basket!!!

LLArms
470
Points
LLArms 05/09/13 - 10:19 am
0
3
Anyone want to form a minute

Anyone want to form a minute men type group for downtown? Only requirement is members have a permit to pack their piece while on patrol. I'll help if interest is there.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 05/09/13 - 11:11 am
1
2
VAR

Still no VAR and no Bass Pro Shop. How many years ago was it suppose to be complete? Anyway, thugs can have downtown and the riverwalk. Anyone with half a brain will clear out by 10pm.

countyman
19718
Points
countyman 05/09/13 - 11:26 am
2
1
West Augusta vs Evans

The Costco(only two outside of metro Atlanta: other location in the suburbs of Chattanooga in North Georgia) opened in 2011, and the VAR is already open(not complete though).

At least there's still a VAR compared to the Mullins Crossing 2 in Evans. Why did the private developers give up on Evans?

If you don't like Augusta then find, but please don't highjack the article to promote your agenda.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7385
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/09/13 - 11:36 am
1
1
Highjack and Promote

Reminds me of Pot and kettle!!

bdouglas
4899
Points
bdouglas 05/09/13 - 03:17 pm
2
2
Funny that someone can

How is it someone only focuses on the lack of crime and homicides in a very specific subsection of the whole of what is actually considered "downtown" by the average citizen in the CSRA....yet, when they try to pull up dirt on Greenville, Charleston, Savannah, etc. it's perfectly alright for them to just Google "downtown ______"? There haven't been ANY murders in a very specific 4 block radius of my house in the past couple years, either.

And @ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts, I'd thumbs up your pot/kettle comment twice if I could...

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 05/09/13 - 11:55 am
0
1
WOW

I don't have an agenda. I already own an empty lot and that's what VAR is full of. Yes I live in Richmond County and yes I pay taxes on three cars, a home and an empty lot. I grew up in South Augusta and literally watched everything from Deans Bridge Rd to 56 close or move.

prov227
3138
Points
prov227 05/09/13 - 12:16 pm
1
1
The city has a duty ...

"You'll also want to take time to visit Riverwalk Augusta, offering pedestrian access to the Savannah River from a public plaza and focusing attention on one of Augusta's most beautiful and unique assets."

This statement is posted on the City's website, inviting ALL to visit Riverwalk as an "attraction" in Augusta. Either the City needs to remove this statement or place a warning disclaimer (and post the warning on signs around Riverwalk). I don't think these signs are needed in the general "downtown" area. Most people understand there are inherent risks in walking alone or with one other person in any downtown city in this country.

"Speakers agreed that it’s important now to put a plan in place to protect “Augusta’s heartbeat” from crimes and a bad reputation."

Why just now? After investing $50-70 million in infrastructure and not protect the reputation of your investment? Especially one of the city's "attractions".

"Johnson expressed the importance of reaching out to the city’s youths to show that violent behavior won’t be tolerated."

Why just now? I thought violent behavior has never been tolerated under the law. Johnson, you may be a little late with this strategy.

"Fennoy responded by saying he didn’t think it would be a good idea for Sheriff Richard Roundtree to announce his plans publicly."

In this case, publicly announced plans from law enforcement may be exactly what is needed. (see Johnson's suggestion)

I agree with several comments that cameras are a poor solution.

Pops
7714
Points
Pops 05/09/13 - 12:39 pm
1
1
Commissioner Bill Fennoy said

“I think when incidents like this happen it is sensationalized in the press."

You think this guy would be saying this if the perps in the bat assault were white and the victims black?

bdouglas
4899
Points
bdouglas 05/09/13 - 02:17 pm
2
0
I understand the sentiment

I understand the sentiment behind them, but the city, the Marriott or anyone else putting signs up saying to visit at their own risk or that these spots are dangerous is never gonna happen. That's suicide from a marketing standpoint. And yes, the city not doing anything about these problems is also marketing suicide, but that's a different ball of wax. These places putting those signs up is the equivalent of McDonald's putting big flashing signs on their doors saying to eat there at your own risk because it will make you fat. Yes, all of the signs would be absolutely true, but advertising these things aren't wise for the establishments. For the 20% of people who were going to venture out there, it's great info to have. But for the 80% who wouldn't have anyway, seeing those signs would put that in their head to spread the word to everyone they know who mentions coming to Augusta. "Don't stay at that hotel on the river...it's not safe there!", when in reality, if their only plan was to go to the hotel, order room service, sleep and leave, it wouldn't have mattered at all. Not saying the signs are a bad idea by any means, just that they'll never realistically happen.

Riverman1
82184
Points
Riverman1 05/09/13 - 03:41 pm
4
0
Maybe reporters should run

Maybe reporters should run their stories past Countyman so he can tell them what they really mean. Would that save time?

mooseye
264
Points
mooseye 05/09/13 - 04:50 pm
1
0
they

say all the money spent on the road blocks is worth it if it saves one person from injury or death, how is that different than one person on the riverwalk? scratching head????

Gage Creed
16722
Points
Gage Creed 05/09/13 - 08:35 pm
2
1
Bass Pro Shops....there are

Bass Pro Shops....there are only two in GA outside of the metro ATL area... (and they aren't here) What does this or countyman's diatribe really mean? At the end of the day it means NOTHING... especially if your head has been beat in by some thug with a baseball bat.

Bodhisattva
5977
Points
Bodhisattva 05/11/13 - 07:54 am
0
0
Cobalt-I was offering to the

Cobalt-I was offering to the city leaders that claim it's so safe. I don't know that I'd do it for $1,000 with my 9mm on my belt and my AR under my coat.

Darby
25010
Points
Darby 05/11/13 - 12:14 pm
1
0
"Augusta leaders and members of the downtown

community concluded at a gathering Wednesday that downtown is safe"

.
Well, of course downtown IS SAFE! Just like they CAN'T PUT ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET THAT ISN'T TRUE....

Back to Top

Top headlines

Paine plans furloughs, salary cuts, layoffs

Paine College President George C. Bradley on Friday announced the college will implement furlough days, salary reductions and layoffs to save $2.4 million over the next fiscal year.
Search Augusta jobs