At the first sign of violence, people appear to be reaching for their phones, not to call 911, but to record the incident.
A series of Augusta videos, including several posted last week on social media Web sites such as YouTube, went viral, but police say they inaccurately paint a picture of increased violence.
In February, there was a video of teenage girls beating one another and snatching each other by the hair at Augusta Mall, which spawned debates about mall safety.
A brawl on Broad Street again raised concerns about downtown safety after it surfaced just days after a couple was brutally beaten on Riverwalk Augusta and a man was beaten and robbed outside a Broad Street bar. The fight involved several people and ended in gunfire.
Last week, another video caught employees at a local Waffle House fighting and pulling each other’s hair.
Those aren’t the only ones. A Web search of “Augusta, GA fights” shows videos of brawls at fast-food and club parking lots, Broad Street, Meadowbrook, Sunset Homes, Magnolia Park and even the parking lot of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Some have collected tens of thousands of page views.
Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew acknowledged that the videos offer a disturbing view of Augusta, but he said there hasn’t been an increase in violence, just more cellphones that can record these incidents for the Web.
“We answer calls to fights all the time all over the city,” Chew said.
According to a 2012 Pew study on cellphone use, about 85 percent of people own a cellphone and about 44 percent frequently use their phone to take videos, an increase of nearly 30 percent since 2007.
Most of the fights can involve 10 or more people but are fairly short and have cleared up by the time police arrive – if they are called at all. After they respond, it’s unusual to get anyone to talk about what happened.
“If they never bring it to our attention, then we can’t do anything about it,” Chew said. “We need someone to report it.”
Augusta isn’t the only Georgia city getting unwanted attention on the Web. A search of fights in Savannah, Athens, Columbus and Valdosta shows similar results in parking lots, downtown and housing areas.
“It looks like an unusual amount, but they’re been going on for years,” Chew said. “Even when I was on the road patrol I responded to fights.”