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 (74) 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.
PitchFork007
473
Points
PitchFork007 05/08/13 - 11:20 am
16
2
Depends upon who's speaking

Saying that downtown is safe, or not, depends upon who's speaking.
The same applies to those who say that our borders are secure, or not.

purdueray
16
Points
purdueray 05/08/13 - 11:39 am
14
2
Is Downttown really safe?

I suppose Regency Mall was safe, too. The people voted with their feet then and will again if this is not addressed. ......"saying peace, peace when there is no peace"

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 11:58 am
5
18
Facts

1. Zero homicides in over two years...
2. Very low number of violent crimes...
3. Last shooting in July of 2012...
4. New businesses opening frequently
5. Major signs of development under construction

How can downtown not be considered safe?

I don't understand how the different areas all over the metro and CSRA with more crime don't get singled out.

The media wants to get all of the eye balls, but doesn't want people to know the 'real truth'..

I'll continue to say downtown and West Augusta are the only hope for attracting high paying office jobs. The media should be responsible instead of just trying to get additional viewers.

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 12:05 pm
3
12
Interesting

Why does everything have to be compared to Regency Mall? At least once a week people bring up the old mall like Augusta is the only city in the US to lose a mall.. The funny thing is the mall closed over a decade ago, and nothing large has went away since then. In fact the Village at Riverwatch is here, the Carmax area is under way, the Augusta mall is more upscale, Augusta Exchange is bigger, etc.

Why can't things become the Augusta mall? A okay mall that turned into by far the most upscale mall outside of metro Atlanta. Apple, PF Changs, Williams Sonoma, Chop House, Pandora, Sephora, etc.

Purdureray... Please don't ever compare the CBD to the Regency Mall area(even when it was open)... The demographics, income, etc are not even in the same hemisphere.

my.voice
5180
Points
my.voice 05/08/13 - 12:11 pm
18
1
“this is nowhere near as bad

“this is nowhere near as bad as it seems.”

Tell that to that guy in the hospital. It sounds like we are waiting until it gets "as bad as it seems"

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 12:20 pm
3
15
I had to add one more comment

I had to add one more comment on the subject. Some people love to make it seem like Augusta is so dangerous, but the crime rate is lower compared to the overwhelmingly majority of peer cities.

I did a quick search, and found a couple of homicides in downtown Charleston and shootings in downtown Greenville. Some people love to bring up places like Charleston and Greenville(even though their crime rate is higher lol), because they have better downtown's.

''Across two blocks of downtown Charleston's eastside, three Charleston City police cameras sit high above the street. The cameras are scanning the block, watching 24 hours a day. But 12 hours after a man was shot and killed on Hanover street, and no one has been arrested, the community is calling for more birds-eye protection.'' "I think they should install more cameras," said Tommy Wright. "It would be better... safer for the community. People will rest better."
http://www.live5news.com/Global/story.asp?S=18784593

''Greenville police said they were investigating a shooting in downtown Tuesday afternoon.''
http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/14758643/man-found-shot-in-leg-in-green...

''Greenville police said Tuesday they arrested a man in connection with a shooting at a downtown bar early Sunday morning.''
http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/16148182/man-arrested-in-downtown-green...

The reason why downtown Charleston, Greenville, Savannah, etc are further along is the media/govt/local population.

They have more people willing to still visit downtown no matter the crime, and the criminals won't be able to win. The media actually focuses on trying to improve the problem, and not just trying to get additional viewers.

Mr. Thackeray
957
Points
Mr. Thackeray 05/08/13 - 12:20 pm
13
2
So...how about all the fat

So...how about all the fat cats from Deke on down walk the streets & river walk at 2am for a couple of weekends and tells us they are safe!

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 12:23 pm
2
12
Mr. Thackeray.... Where part

Mr. Thackeray.... Where part of the CSRA do you live in?

Do you walk around your area at 2am?

DawgnSC69
287
Points
DawgnSC69 05/08/13 - 12:29 pm
17
1
Really Now...

I'll be the one that decides if it's safe or not for my family to go there. Not some uninformed commisioner drinking too much koolaid.

Wake up! People seem to forget. There have been problems down there for years. When is "bad" enough to be called a problem with these people?

nocnoc
49620
Points
nocnoc 05/08/13 - 12:36 pm
2
0
Next stop to directly donate, GA Bank & Trust

All politics aside,
please consider donating.

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 12:37 pm
2
10
I don't want to speak for any

I don't want to speak for any of the commissioners, but I don't think anybody is saying there haven't been problems downtown for years.. I think everybody wants something to be done whether it's security cameras, additional police, etc.

The question should be does the area have more problems compared to the other areas of the CSRA?

How come some people are so quickly to generalize downtown, but not other areas with more crime?

The same people who want others to share their negative view of downtown. They'll sit in your face, and tell you how the area they live is safe but might have more problems than downtown.

nocnoc
49620
Points
nocnoc 05/08/13 - 12:43 pm
10
1
Countyman - Please define your Downtown

Is it Broad St. ONLY
or does it include adjoining streets Green, Walker, East Boundary area, Hale St., Telfair, Walton, Laney Walker area, 1-15Th St.?

nocnoc
49620
Points
nocnoc 05/08/13 - 12:46 pm
11
1
BTW: I'll be the first to acknowledge

The South Side has more crime.

After All Augusta Section 8'd most of it to us.

whyme
2110
Points
whyme 05/08/13 - 12:55 pm
5
0
safe or not?

First, of course they're not going to say it's unsafe. That would be a seriously bad idea for business and tourism.
I don't question the statistics and how wonderful that there have been only a "few" serious crimes as of late, and therefore I suppose this does not mean that the area is unsafe. I'd be curious to know at what level is it considered unsafe?
You're right, it is likely much safer than, say, downtown Atlanta, or maybe even downtown Columbia, though I haven't been to the latter at night. But that doesn't mean that just because we've "only" had a few incidents lately and these have actually become newsworthy for their heinous nature, we should consider them flukes and not change our way of doing business. I like the idea of increased police visibility-should have already been present, not the previous minimal numbers because there are so few major crimes there. And let's not wait for more analysis or meetings, let's get on it now. I'm sure the victims in the crime would like to say that out of their pain and suffering some good came to others, like improved safety for all.

Mr. Thackeray
957
Points
Mr. Thackeray 05/08/13 - 01:05 pm
14
1
Yes I do countyman, I live in

Yes I do countyman, I live in Columbia County, though not in a sub division. I have felt perfectly safe at all hours.

daphne3520
953
Points
daphne3520 05/08/13 - 01:06 pm
0
0
ALL you morons speaking up for downtown need
Unpublished

to wake up and smell the REAL coffee!!!!!!!

kiwiinamerica
984
Points
kiwiinamerica 05/08/13 - 01:07 pm
0
0
Woo-hooo!!
Unpublished

Countyman in full-on panic mode!!

ROFL.................

seenitB4
98535
Points
seenitB4 05/08/13 - 01:20 pm
11
1
To this

Augusta leaders and members of the downtown community concluded at a Wednesday gathering that downtown is safe

I say...hahahahahhhehhehehlolllollhahahahehhehehhhlolllolllhahahahahahhhaaalollolhowie hahhahah....
oooowwwweee.......& the Easter Bunny will see you at Easter...:)

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 01:25 pm
2
7
Good points

I think Whyme had the best comment I've read all day. Let's continue to make downtown safer(and Richmond County), but realize were not the only city figuring out ways to combat the crime rate.

I would definitely think downtown Augusta is safer than downtown Columbia. Columbia has less empty buildings, and the perception may feel different to some people though. They do have the Vista and Five Points compared to our Artist Row. The 8th street plaza could be Augusta's other concentrated area.

For some reason different people seem to think crime doesn't happen in the tourist/upscale areas of downtown in other cities. I found a couple of shootings in the Vista and Five Points areas in downtown Columbia.
http://www.thestate.com/2012/12/23/2565820/robbery-shooting-in-vista-lea...
http://www.thestate.com/2013/02/23/2645206/man-arrested-in-connection-wi...

I seriously doubt Urban Outfitters would be getting ready to open this July in the Vista if the residents/media/govt took the approach of Augusta. The sky is falling, everywhere in dangerous, don't leave your house, etc mentality.

seenitB4
98535
Points
seenitB4 05/08/13 - 01:26 pm
10
1
ctyman you don't need to tell where I live

Most know already...I live in Gwinnett county..

What you are not realizing that cleaning up the Riverwalk/downtown will bring in MORE TOURISTS....instead of preaching how safe the cbd is do what will really work....put the Officers on the street---find the punks & punish to the max.....the best thing would be for tourists to SEE the police.....walking around in that area at all hours...instead of wasting time trying to convince readers how "safe" it is....do the things that will make it better...

Kingbiscuitboy
479
Points
Kingbiscuitboy 05/08/13 - 01:28 pm
13
2
Won't see me downtown after dark

You won't catch me or any member of my family downtown after dark. I'm not going to chance it. Visiting vendors of at least one major area employer are told get out after dark unless they are in a large groups. The town needs the Guardian Angels to patrol the downtown area.

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 01:37 pm
3
9
Nocnoc... I don't own the

Nocnoc... I don't own the downtown, and the CBD boundaries are even on Google maps. 13th street/Walton Way/Savannah River/Gordon Hwy
https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Augusta+ga+Central+Business+District&ie=U...

The Laney Walker area belongs to both the Medical District and the Laney Walker neighborhood. East Boundary is clearly located within the East Augusta area.

Mr. Thackeray.... I live downtown, and I have came home much later than 2 am. The people who live downtown like me feel safe too. I used to live in Columbia County, and you can't fool me.

I bet you don't walk around the city limits of Grovetown, Ridge Crossing/Shenandoah Ridge/Apple Cross in Martinez, Cox Alley/apartments across from Target in Evans, Wedgewood in Martinz/Evans etc at 2 am...

I'm positive you wouldn't have a problem if the leaders of Columbia County still refer to Martinez as safe for example. Even though the Sprint gas Station on South Belair rd stop letting people go into the store after 12am. They've been robbed numerous times lately, and I'm sure the Ridge Crossing apartments/older housing nearby is the reason.

Just My Opinion
6296
Points
Just My Opinion 05/08/13 - 01:39 pm
5
2
Look, I'm not defending or

Look, I'm not defending or jumping on either side's bandwagon on this, but the common element in all three cases is that they occurred at NIGHT. And not just 8 or 9pm, we're talking much later. So, that tells me that, no..downtown Augusta is NOT safe in the late hours of night. And neither is anywhere in west Augusta, or south Augusta, or even anywhere in Columbia County.
NOTHING good happens after midnight...well, as far as crime is concerned! I don't think I'd have a problem taking my family to supper downtown, but we'd be getting out of there at least by 9pm. Now, if we were to attend a concert or play, then getting out later would be somewhat different, because we'd be in a like-minded crowd and we'd be safer.
Despite what countyman says, I agree with the commenter earlier who said something about the mayor and the commissioners going out on the streets at 2 a.m.....except not all together! See if any of them would be willing to walk around at that time with their wife, or children...and with NO police escort. Hmmm, yeah...I think their answer would be a big fat NO.

RoadkiII
6807
Points
RoadkiII 05/08/13 - 01:40 pm
10
3
Hey Countyman

I concede the point that Big Tree Shopping Center was no where the size of Regency Mall. But I wouldn't consider it a small area either. Last time I checked there were NO businesses open there. Even IHOP has closed its doors. I am sure you can provide a list of businesses just waiting to open their doors there.

seenitB4
98535
Points
seenitB4 05/08/13 - 01:41 pm
9
1
Why do we have to spell this out

Walking downtown & on the Riverwalk is a tourist destination....walking on the roads of Grovetown & subdiv back streets are not a tourist adventure......you put resources where they are needed NOT at a whim of a country road...
YOU want to protect the downtown area ...well just listen with an open mind for a change......it never fails though......when acts like this happen...someone on here comes out like gang busters to prove the posters wrong.....you will run out of ink my friend....stop beating a dead cow...just go with the flow & really improve the tourists --sightseeing places....now...how hard is that...I'm going for now....seeya.

seenitB4
98535
Points
seenitB4 05/08/13 - 01:46 pm
10
1
BTW

This isn't about YOU countyman...it is about the 2 innocent people who had their brains beat with a metal bat....

Dang...sometimes I think I'm reading a fairy tale on here...without the sparkles.

RoadkiII
6807
Points
RoadkiII 05/08/13 - 01:51 pm
11
2
Ask Mr Spires and Miss

Ask Mr Spires and Miss Solesbee how safe they were that night. Yes, I have been on the riverwalk late at night. It's a beautiful, peaceful area until some thug decides to give you plastic surgery using a baseball bat. I will probably visit the riverwalk again... AFTER I have renewed my CCP.

Dixieman
17584
Points
Dixieman 05/08/13 - 08:52 pm
12
3
Oh, please

Dixieman invites Johnson, Fennoy and all politicians who believe this to go walk around Broad Street and Riverwalk after dark. And take their families with them. Make sure they have their health insurance cards with them.
Talk is cheap and safe, folks. Let's see these fools put their money where their mouths are.

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 05/08/13 - 02:11 pm
9
2
I don't care what the crime rate is

In Greenville, Columbia or any other place. I don't live in those places. I would venture to say that anyone in Augusta that has lost a loved one to violence doesn't care either. If the section 8 movement of downtown housing is continued to be spread out in South Augusta you will not have a tax base there anymore. You will have neighborhoods full of abandoned houses. Just like you do in downtown. That's reality not opinion!

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 02:27 pm
3
8
How is walking on the

The CBD is not full of abandoned homes or neighborhoods. Even Laney Walker and Harrisburg are getting rid of the abandoned homes. It's funny the same person who loves to mention he lives in North Augusta, and can't wait to sell his property in South Augusta. The person doesn't want to hear about the crime rate in Columbia, but he doesn't live in Augusta either. I guess we shouldn't care what he thinks, because he doesn't even want to live here.

How is walking on the Riverwalk at 2am an indictment on Augusta? The majority of times people would be fine anyway. Do you really think the residents in Greenville, Charleston, Savannah, Macon, Columbus, etc think it's wise to walk alone at 2 am?

Seenitb4.... I only want the public to know the truth about the crime rate downtown, and find solutions to improve the crime rate. I just think certain people want to me say downtown is 'unsafe', but the stats wouldn't back up the claim.

Roadkilll... Can you please do the research before you make sarcastic remarks. The Augusta National owns the Big Tree shopping center, and forced I-Hop, Family Dollar, Food Lion, etc to move out. I find it halarious you would actually think nobody want to invest along the West Augusta sections of Washington rd. Did you not see the remodeling of the Krispy Kreme/Chick Fil A, new Electrolux facility, expanded Fresh Market, $20 million Sheraton, multi million Mercedez Benz dealership, etc. Not to mention the future development in front of Kroger, and new Texas Roadhouse restaurant opening at Sherwood/Washington.

A person associated with the Augusta National also forced the residents of the Greens on Washington(apt complex) to move.

Why can't people never mention Columbia County without somebody responding? Every single day some of the residents in Columbia County present their opinions as facts related to things Richmond County.

Back to Top
loading...
Top headlines

Ex-SC Gov. Edwards dies

CHARLESTON, S.C. - James B. Edwards, South Carolina's first Republican governor since Reconstruction and later energy secretary for two years in the Reagan administration, has died.
Search Augusta jobs