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Most downtown crime occurs after midnight

Saturday, May 11, 2013 8:38 PM
Last updated Sunday, May 12, 2013 12:40 PM
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How safe are visitors to downtown Augusta? It depends on when they visit and where they go.

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Deputy Wesley Youngblood looks down Ninth Street as he patrols Reynolds Street. Reports of crime increase almost fivefold between midnight and 3 a.m., according to crime reports compiled by The Augusta Chronicle.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Deputy Wesley Youngblood looks down Ninth Street as he patrols Reynolds Street. Reports of crime increase almost fivefold between midnight and 3 a.m., according to crime reports compiled by The Augusta Chronicle.

SLIDESHOW: Downtown Patrol

View more photos from the patrol

Those who stay out after midnight are more likely to run into trouble.

Reports of crime increase almost fivefold between midnight and 3 a.m., according to crime reports compiled by The Augusta Chronicle.

“I think downtown is safe, but you have to be cautious,” Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said. “If it’s normal business hours, I think it’s a safe place to be.”

The Chronicle analyzed more than 1,400 sheriff’s office reports of crime and other incidents reported between Jan. 1, 2012, and May 7, 2013, in Augusta’s downtown business district. The analysis – coming in the wake of a May 3 assault on Riverwalk Augusta that injured two people – focused on an area bounded by the Savannah River and Telfair Street from Fifth to 13th streets and identified about 260 reports of assaults, thefts, robberies and drug crimes during the 16-month period.

Overall, the number of crimes reported doesn’t differ much from parts of the county considered safer, such as west Augusta.

About 2 percent of serious crimes countywide – assaults, thefts, burglaries, robberies, damage to property and drug arrests – occur in Augusta’s downtown business district, according to crime data supplied by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Calvin Chew said authorities believe that downtown is actually safer, especially on weekends, because of the increased police presence.

Normally, two officers are assigned to the area – one in a police cruiser and one in a Mule, a golf cart-type vehicle. During the day, downtown also has two bicycle officers. On the weekends, the police presence increases as more officers are brought in for special assignments at bars or special events, such as First Friday.

“Usually on weekends, you have more officers downtown than anywhere else (in Augusta),” Chew said.

Most of the problems that occur downtown take place near Broad Street around the time bars close, according to police.

The Chronicle’s analysis also showed that more than half of serious crimes reported in downtown Augusta occur on Broad Street – where bars and restaurants stay open late. Of those crimes reported on Broad Street, about half occur between midnight and 3 a.m.

“We’re pulling people from different assignments, the traffic division and just about everyone in special operations to work Broad Street,” Gay said.

Officers have also had an increased presence during First Friday, which draws large crowds into downtown, especially during the warm-weather months, but the police began adding resources after six people were shot after First Friday last July 6. No one was seriously injured.

Police never found the shooter but did discover a gun that had previously been reported stolen.

Police also began increasing their focus on the city’s midnight curfew for ages 17 and younger. Enforcement of the minors curfew became a big issue last year after the July shootings, and the sheriff’s office said it would crack down on violators.

Gay said it’s a constant problem that often ties up officers. Police are required to watch the minors until they can be turned over to an adult caretaker, but the adults are usually difficult to find.

“It’s difficult, but we do enforce it,” he said.

Despite a few high-profile incidents, First Friday weekends don’t produce more reports of crime than other weekends, according to the newspaper’s analysis. In fact, in the past 16 months, slightly fewer serious crimes were reported during First Friday weekends than on the other 53 weekends. Seven assaults and two robberies were reported during First Friday, most occurring in the early-morning hours after the event ended. Five robberies and 37 assaults were reported in the same hours on other weekends.

The increased police presence was in plce during this month’s First Friday, and overall there were few problems – until the attack on the riverwalk. In fact, the riverwalk has few reports of crime compared with other parts of the downtown district.

In the past 16 months, there have been no other reports of serious crime in the area where the couple was attacked.

Wesley Spires, 27, and Ashley Solesbee, 25, were robbed and assaulted by two men with metal bats or pipes behind the former Fort Discovery about 11 p.m. May 3. One of the suspects, Robbey Eugene Moses, was arrested Friday night in Newberry, S.C., along with Dominque Shantaee Hale, a suspect in a May 2 assault on a man who was robbed and carjacked as he left the Riverfront Pub on Broad Street. Moses is also a suspect in the Broad Street attack.

Authorities have identified 21-year-old Kevin Richardson as the second suspect in the riverwalk assault. He has not been found. More unwelcome attention on downtown safety came Monday when a video from the early morning of April 27 surfaced that showed young men and women fighting in the 900 block of Broad Street. The fight ended after gunshots apparently were fired.

The recent incidents did not stop some from going downtown for a weekend night out.

Ashley Brown and Shanice Griange, both of Augusta, were seated on a bench in front of the Imperial Theatre about 9 p.m. Friday while waiting on friends to go visit the riverwalk.

“We’re not concerned,” Brown said. “We never had a problem coming downtown.”

Many noticed an increased presence of law enforcement patrolling the streets and also the sidewalks, where groups of officers on foot and on bicycles were seen passing by.

“I think the added presence of security tonight is awesome,” said Chuck Deen, who was leaving dinner at Eros Bistro on Broad Street with his friend Brenda Hayes. “I think it’s a great sign that people want this to be a good environment and safe.”

Hayes said she hesitated just briefly before making the decision to visit downtown after the three recent incidents of violent crimes.

“It feels safe,” she said, of the extra police presence. “If security is not assured, it will have a chilling affect on me coming over here. If I don’t feel safe, I won’t come.”

City officials said at a meeting Wednesday that they believe crime downtown is more a perception than a reality. Regardless, they said there needs to be more focus on safety downtown.

In addition to seeing another increase in police presence, the sheriff’s office and the city are pushing for a video surveillance system.

Chief Deputy Pat Clayton said the sheriff’s office hopes to extend its bike patrol into the night.

The sheriff’s office is using existing technology in the downtown area; Gay declined to elaborate on the specifics of the technology.

The Augusta Commission also is discussing surveillance cameras, better lighting and plans to trim back trees and shrubs, especially at riverwalk, to increase visibility.

“We’re looking into everything,” Chew said. “The sheriff talks about putting on his uniform and getting out there if he has to.”

Staff Writer Jenna Martin contributed to this article.

TOP 10 BLOCKS

The following downtown Augusta blocks had the most crimes reported from Jan. 1, 2012, and May 7:

Crimes

StreetBlockReported
Broad90039
Broad70032
Broad50016
Broad110015
Broad80015
Greene100014
Broad100013
Broad6008
Greene11006
James Brown7005

Source: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

DOWNTOWN CRIME BY THE NUMBERS

An analysis of serious crimes reported in the central business district lists 260 incidents from Jan. 1, 2012, to May 7, 2013.

TimeCrimes reportedPercent of reports
Midnight to 4 a.m.11645 percent
4 to 8 a.m.62 percent
8 a.m. to noon2510 percent
Noon to 4 p.m.3112 percent
4 to 8 p.m.3413 percent
8 p.m. to midnight4818 percent
DayCrimes reportedPercent of reports
Monday249 percent
Tuesday2811 percent
Wednesday4317 percent
Thursday197 percent
Friday3514 percent
Saturday6625 percent
Sunday4517 percent

Source: Richmond County Sheriff’s Department

Comments (38) Add comment
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Little Lamb
45321
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Little Lamb 05/12/13 - 11:40 pm
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Embellish

This question doesn't make sense to me:

Why is somebody accusing the Chronicle of embellishments when almost all of their comments are negative embellishments or just plain false?

RoadkiII
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RoadkiII 05/13/13 - 05:28 am
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Safe in the CBD

15 crimes per month... or 1 every other day. I feel much safer now. Now we need a study to see if the crimes are committed on the odd or even dates.

Riverman1
82424
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Riverman1 05/13/13 - 06:57 am
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Westobou Event Drew 100,000 People?

A Westobou event drew 100,000 people??? I must have missed it.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/13/13 - 07:24 am
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Confusing Statistic

From the article: “The Chronicle analyzed more than 1,400 sheriff’s office reports of crime and other incidents reported between Jan. 1, 2012, and May 7, 2013, in Augusta’s downtown business district. The analysis – coming in the wake of a May 3 assault on Riverwalk Augusta that injured two people – focused on an area bounded by the Savannah River and Telfair Street from Fifth to 13th streets and identified about 260 reports of assaults, thefts, robberies and drug crimes during the 16-month period.”

That’s confusing. There were 1,400 sheriff’s office reports of crime and other incidents, but of that only 260 were reports of assaults, thefts, robberies and drug crimes during the same period. I wonder what the other what the other reports were? Do other areas of the county such as West Augusta have 1,400 reports of crime and other incidents to the RCSO?

Edited to add, I see where Corgimom said something similar.

Riverman1
82424
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Riverman1 05/13/13 - 07:19 am
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About Activity in Downtown Augusta

Chronicle reporter Wesley Brown wrote in the Moped article, "With a downtown core that pales in size and has less activity than Athens, Atlanta and Savannah, Clancy said he recommends those who operate low-powered scooters stick to secondary roads."

Now that's an interesting observation.

lifelongresident
1323
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lifelongresident 05/13/13 - 08:17 am
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i think after midnite
Unpublished

i think after midnite profiling should be instituted by the police and all typical thugs with the "dreds, low-wearing pants, and other thug like, criminal characteristics should be barred from downtown, there are plenty of "thug clubs, and supper clubs on the lower end of laney-walker where their kind congregate that they can go to and hang out shooting, robbing, and selling their drugs to one another, they do not need to go downtown to rob law-abiding people out just to enjoy themselves

Little Lamb
45321
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Little Lamb 05/13/13 - 10:01 am
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Confusing Statistic

That is interesting, RM, how the Chronicle reporters analyzed 1,400 sheriff reports and found that only 260 of them were assaults, thefts, robberies or drug crimes. The others must have been spitting on the sidewalks, jaywalking, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, aggressive panhandling, automobile fender benders, resisting arrest, fleeing the scene of a crime, vandalism, illegal parking, etc.

I wonder if public intoxication is included in the Chronicle reporters’ tally of "drug crimes," or whether alcohol is excluded from the category?

Steve Crawford
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Steve Crawford 05/13/13 - 10:18 am
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Re: Confusing Statistics

Riverman -- I can see how it is confusing. I should have done a better job explaining in the story, but let me try to explain here.
We started out with about 1,400 reports obtained from the sheriff's office. Most of those consisted of things like, "suspicious persons," lost or found property, nuisance complaints and misc. reports, basically hundreds of things that usually don't result in an arrest or charge against anyone. We whittled that down to about 260 "serious crimes" -- assaults, robberies, thefts, and drug arrests that fell into our selected geographic borders, during the time period we decided to look at. We compared that to our online database to make sure we we're missing anything important. After that, we crunched the numbers and published the results.
This was not an extensive or comprehensive analysis of all crime in Richmond County. It was a quick look at when and where crime occurs downtown. The results were not surprising.
If you take a look at our crime database: http://chronicle.augusta.com/data/crimemap
You can search the different areas of Richmond County and see the number and nature of serious crimes reported during the same period.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/13/13 - 12:12 pm
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Steve, thanks for the

Steve, thanks for the detailed explanation. I still find it interesting that there would be 1,400 reports, not calls, generated in that area. Do you have any idea if that's unusual compared to other areas?

Jess18
5
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Jess18 05/13/13 - 08:08 pm
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Myfather15

Myfather15 I created a profile just to say Thank You! A voice of reason and truth in this negative, hate filled world! I read the Chronicle everyday and try not to read the comments because of the ignorance and hatred that spews from them but I usually give in, read the comments and become infuriated. I deleted The Jail Report updates on Facebook for the same reason. I am so sick of the state of humanity now days and I haven't turned 30 yet. I'm terrified for my Son to grow up in the world we live in now but so blessed to have him. Thanks for an uplifting message!

myfather15
54852
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myfather15 05/14/13 - 12:57 am
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@Jess18

Your welcome; and thank you for the compliment. God bless you and don't worry, God is a reality, not a religion. Times are getting rough but we still have a Savior and he will SAVE, in more ways than one.

Steve Crawford
94
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Steve Crawford 05/14/13 - 01:07 am
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Riverman

I'm not sure whether other areas generate the same number of misc. reports, since we didn't request all reports for all areas. I would estimate that any areas with a lot of commercial traffic and/or pedestrian activity would generate a lot of reports. That's pure speculation, however, so don't hold me to it.

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