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Chronicle analysis shows southside has bulk of crimes reported at clubs

Saturday, May 18, 2013 4:24 PM
Last updated Sunday, May 19, 2013 6:28 AM
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Though recent violence after downtown events and near bars has increased concerns about nightlife in that part of Augusta, an analysis of police calls shows crimes reported at entertainment establishments are spread across the city, with the bulk on the southside.

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Deputies Michael Sizemore (from left), Vernon Gandy and Will McClure stand on the stage and look out over the dance floor while working an off-duty special assignment at Coyote's Nightclub.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Deputies Michael Sizemore (from left), Vernon Gandy and Will McClure stand on the stage and look out over the dance floor while working an off-duty special assignment at Coyote's Nightclub.

During the past five years, sheriff’s deputies were summoned to 27 downtown clubs 227 times, but officers responded to 312 other incidents – including three homicides – at 26 clubs in south Augusta. The most reports were at the Peach Orchard Road saloon Coyote’s, with 66 criminal incidents – 28 for violent crimes – over that time.

After a New Year's slaying at Club El Fiesco on Peach Orchard Road, The Augusta Chronicle examined the frequency of crime at businesses licensed to sell alcohol. Open records requests provided data about who held alcohol licenses in Augusta over the past five years, and where crime was documented by authorities.

The analysis revealed that the clubs keeping police busiest exist across the city, from centrally located Club Argos on Walton Way, which had 21 crime reports, to Club XS Live off Washington Road, with 23. The Soul Bar, which had 23 reports over five years, was the only downtown club in the top 10.

Recent high-profile incidents have raised the focus on downtown crime. On May 2, a man was beaten and robbed after leaving the Riverfront Pub on Broad Street, which has had 12 reports over the five-year period. A day later, a couple was assaulted on the Riverwalk after First Friday.

However, the most crime reports over the period surveyed came from Coyote’s, owned by Charles and Ran­dall Sconyers. The crimes include 17 assaults, 22 thefts and a sprinkling of drug, sex assault, fraud, forgery, obstruction and other incidents.

Charles Sconyers said he encourages deputies he hires as security to write a ticket or make an arrest every time patrons fight or use a fake ID in order to send a zero-tolerance message.

“If you start something, you’re going to pay for it,” he said.

He said another reason Coyote’s and The Country Club – another venue with numerous crime reports – have so many is they are among the largest clubs in Augusta.

Sconyers said he employs three or four deputies for security on Wednesdays and two or three on the weekends. The Country Club, a 1,000-occupancy honky tonk on Washington Road, employs nine or more uniformed deputies each night, including one dedicated to its large parking lot, according to Tommy Byrd, its assistant manager for promotions and bands.

The Country Club, where foul play is not suspected in the May 10 discovery of a man’s body in a vehicle parked in an obscured area of the club’s parking lot, was second in The Chronicle’s rankings, with 48 reports of crime over the past five years.

Byrd said his club’s zero-tolerance policy for fighting and fake IDs was likely to blame for the high number of crime reports. He said law-abiding patrons need not fear a brush with crime there.

“That is the absolute last thing I would worry about here,” he said. “We have safety issues 100 percent under control.”

Achieving that means keeping a large staff of uniformed Richmond County sheriff’s deputies employed on a regular basis. The club requires the deputies to sign a promise to treat patrons with respect and even takes several on an annual employee cruise, Byrd said.

While the club requires deputies check all IDs, it will soon implement an electronic system that scans IDs for fakes while recording every instance the ID is used at the club, he said.

The Finish Line on Wrights­boro Road had the third most crime reports, with 31 reported incidents that include 13 assaults, eight thefts and three weapons offenses.

While many clubs have had problems – 84 establishments had at least one incident in five years – they also create revenue for the city. Beverage taxes are expected to generate $2.9 million for the city this year, while an annual permit to sell liquor, beer and wine on premises, obtained with Augusta Commission approval from the city’s planning and development office, costs around $4,500.

About 232 establishments including restaurants are licensed for on-premises sales, while 61 bars and clubs are licensed both for on-premises sales and dancing.

Once licensed, however, an applicant’s status is monitored by the sheriff’s office, which could recommend commissioners consider revoking, suspending or placing on probation a club’s license.

In the case of Club El Fiesco, sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Elim cited the slaying of Edward Yancey, underage drinking violations and an adult dance offense when he went to the commission, which suspended owner Dan­iel Magna's license for 90 days. Other clubs still open after homicides in the past five years are Club 5150 on Deans Bridge Road and Alter Ego'z on Gordon Highway.

When crime doesn’t rise to the level of homicide, determining whether a club is a problem is a balance between the number of police calls, the number of substantiated incidents and the club’s ability to control its issues without requiring outside assistance, said Elim, who heads the vice division.

Last year, when the commission shut down Cloud Nine on Wrightsboro Road, the bar and grill had 148 incidents requiring police involvement, including 15 reports of underage consumption. That level of trouble, plus complaints from neighbors, raises a red flag.

“It’s an issue when we have to bring outside resources in and the environment reaches such a level and the club owner is not taking corrective action to manage it,” Elim said.

Other clubs such as Coyote’s and The Country Club “generate a lot of paperwork,” Elim said, but also take measures to manage the environment by hiring deputies at $18 to $25 an hour to keep things under control.

“As a whole, I think our bar owners are taking responsible action,” he said. “They try, for the most part, and the few that don’t, we take action and get them in front of the commission.”

Other measures used by the sheriff’s office include asking a club owner who is potentially “cutting corners” to review its security plan with the sheriff’s office, Elim said.

Sometimes it takes only a single incident to refer a club to the commission. Club Skittlez on Gordon Highway registered no police calls or reports in the Chronicle’s analysis, but it will soon go before the commission for review after an April incident involving an unpermitted adult dancer and an underage patron.

Despite the numerous incidents and expense of resources to process calls, make arrests and jail suspects, Commissioner Joe Jackson said rowdy clubs with fights probably don’t rise to the level of serious commission concern.

“Whenever you mix testosterone and alcohol, especially with the younger crowd, you’re going to have that,” said Jackson, an occasional patron at Coyote’s, but only when a band plays there he likes.

Jackson said limiting crime at clubs is society’s problem, not the club owners’. Young adults break the rules “more for sport now,” he said. “It’s the new accepted norm in society. How do you trim those incidents? I think it comes back to mommy and daddy.”

Breakdown of 5-year period

AREA                  INCIDENTS   CLUBS WITH CRIMES

Downtown                   227                             27

South                           312                             26

Central                         31                                6

East                              35                                4

Washington Road      118                               10

West                             98                                7

Total                            821                               80

Comments (19) Add comment
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nocnoc
42470
Points
nocnoc 05/18/13 - 06:55 pm
8
0
I am sure it has NOTHING TO

I am sure it has NOTHING TO DO with all the Projects closing and the South Side being the unofficial official Section 8 district for ARC.

I say the South Side has been greedy and needs to share to the wealth.

Starting June 1st let us share Section 8 groups 1 for 1 to each district/ zip code and no more than 2 Government supported groups per community without the community's approval. Let us be fair. EVERY community should enjoy the benefits.

Eliminate Section 8 Slum Lords. Limit Owners to a max of 3 section 8 properties per owner. I do hear one slum Lord has 43 properties that the Taxpayers are buying for him and doing the upkeep and repairs.

ARC / Countyman, if the Southside does not have the most Section 8's what area does?

Speak up we are listening... Is there correlation to Section 8's and community crime?

TrulyWorried
14109
Points
TrulyWorried 05/18/13 - 07:10 pm
4
0
Southside

You said a mouthfull nocnoc - and you are so right!!

Gage Creed
17184
Points
Gage Creed 05/18/13 - 08:08 pm
1
1
I noticed there was no

I noticed there was no correlation of population number of the areas assessed....

Riverman1
83721
Points
Riverman1 05/18/13 - 09:30 pm
2
1
I didn't get the area

I didn't get the area classifications. Washington Rd., West? Those three RCSO officers up on the stage at Coyotes should play guitars and sing a little. They would look more natural.

Dixieman
14943
Points
Dixieman 05/19/13 - 07:07 am
2
1
Oh.

And I thought that -- according to some very defensive bloggers here -- Columbia County was the regional hotbed of crime!

seenitB4
86953
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 07:26 am
3
0
nocnoc says

Speak up we are listening... Is there correlation to Section 8's and community crime?

Do you really want that info on here again.....of course there is....BUT some can't stand the facts.......didn't the southside just have a stabbing at the Family Dollar store??.......aahhh the good ole days on Peach Orch....I wish yall could enjoy them like I did years ago......when will change come....how much time do you have nocnoc...

nocnoc
42470
Points
nocnoc 05/19/13 - 09:16 am
1
0
SBI4-Fill my ears and others

To me it seems Augusta is again drawing a Racial Line by hook or by crook in over planting and seeding the South Side with more section 8's. Than the Hill sections and etc...

Again I challenge ARC housing where are the section 8's being placed and why?

How many section 8 Slum Lords is Augusta supporting to buy, maintain and repair 3 or more houses?

I am not asking for street Numbers and addresses, or their names. Just the numbers of 3+ section 8 owners, the areas and the communities

If one wanted to draw a comparison Augusta is using Section 8 for political Block Busting or District Busting if you will.

nocnoc
42470
Points
nocnoc 05/19/13 - 09:26 am
2
0
Also in defense of South Side

Also in defense of South Side Clubs.

After digesting the article and facts. It seems to me that South Side Club owners with Zero Tolerance policies aren't Violent crime ridden as the article would have us initially think. Most of the South Side (red neck/cracker) clubs actually enforce behavior, where other clubs have a blind eye.

If I was single and still clubbing I would feel safer at Coyotes than downtown on Broad st.

A drunk and disorderly fight or disorderly conduct are a lot different than Shootings and murder.

LBunnies32
103
Points
LBunnies32 05/19/13 - 09:50 am
1
0
Section 8

Covington Subdivision has three section 8 that I know of on Creighton. Not all Section 8 are a problem, but many tenants are loud and rude and do not seem to care that they disturb their neighbors. Screaming all hours of the day and night. Music blaring! I keep trying to figure out when people stopped caring for their neighbors and wanting to live in peace!

Riverman1
83721
Points
Riverman1 05/19/13 - 09:54 am
0
0
When public housing projects

When public housing projects are demolished and the tenants sent to Section 8 housing, is the housing located in the same county?

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 05/19/13 - 11:15 am
1
1
Clubs

Nonoc... Coyotes is perfectly find, but the majority of shootings/homicides at clubs take place in South Augusta and not downtown.

I don't why you feel the southside attracting red necks is better than downtown attracting the YPA(Young professionals) crowd of Augusta.

The last murder in the CBD was in 2012(first since 2011) between two homeless guys.

The crime at the clubs in South Augusta have everything to do with many of them being considered holes in the walls, and the crowds they attract. The people who lived in Gilbert Manor(demolished housing project) for example mostly live in Lake Olmstead now, and you can't blame them for this.

There's a larger amount of quality clubs in West Augusta, downtown, and Surrey Center versus South Augusta.

Seenitb4. The media is reporting the woman got stabbed in self defense, and the same media is reporting multiple shootings in Aiken County. The Chronicle may not report it, because they don't report 95% of the crime outside of Richmond County.

seenitB4
86953
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 11:20 am
1
0
Because ctyman

It is the AUGUSTA paper & not the AIKEN paper.....most people want to read what is happening around them...like close by happenings....

dichotomy
32844
Points
dichotomy 05/19/13 - 11:41 am
1
0
I think it is fairly obvious

I think it is fairly obvious that Section 8 has been used as a weapon in the "redevelopment" game to relocate undesirable, and low income elements from downtown to South Augusta.

The results of this are obvious for those of us who have lived here through the implementation of Consolidation and "redevelopment" of the "old city". The crime is up, the restaurants and retail are gone. (Yeh countyman I know we are getting a Walgreens and a Five Guys....maybe.) But any long time resident has seen the deterioration and knows why it has happened......."city" policy, relocate the problem, use taxpayer money against the ones who pay the taxes.

Some cities have fairly successfully used Section 8 to distribute low income into surrounding areas and redevelop the inner city without "killing' any one area. Other cities, like Augusta, have succumbed to the "not in my backyard" pressures of the higher income, more politically connected areas and have taken the easy route of dumping them all into one area that has no power and little representation. They traded one wasteland for another wasteland.

Tag South Augusta....you're it.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 05/19/13 - 12:20 pm
0
0
Re: Gage Creed @ 08:08

Yes, a valid conclusion cannot be drawn from the numbers presented here. To make any meaningful comparison of numbers of citations, you need to know the numbers of patrons involved. Then you need to ratio and normalize. I, too, am puzzled about the boundaries of the central, west, south, and east categorization. Washington Rd. is pretty clear. It begins at John C. Calhoun and ends at the county line. But what category would you put Malibu Jacks in?

Darby
25564
Points
Darby 05/19/13 - 03:55 pm
2
0
"When public housing projects are demolished

and the tenants sent to Section 8 housing, is the housing located in the same county?"

Yes

No

itsanotherday1
42932
Points
itsanotherday1 05/19/13 - 07:08 pm
1
0
I don't put a lot of stock in

I don't put a lot of stock in the numbers. Big clubs like Coyotes and Country Club have hired cops who report the disturbances; while other club's management just kicks the offenders out. Trust me, they call the police only when absolutely necessary, not wanting their business to draw attention.

Riverman1
83721
Points
Riverman1 05/20/13 - 08:45 am
0
0
Many Variables

Yeah, there are many variables here. Size of crowds and the tendency of the bar/club to handle things themselves. I guarantee you some of the bars handle problems on their own and are much tougher on trouble makers than the police are. The patrons at these place know the bouncers take no prisoners and will ban you for life. Other places call the police if someone cusses.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 05/20/13 - 08:51 am
0
0
Math

If you divide the number of police reports for criminal acts at clubs by the number of clubs with incidents, you get the following statistics:

Crimes
per
Club
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
08.4 - - - Downtown
12.0 - - - South
05.2 - - - Central
08.8 - - - East
11.8 - - - Washington Road
14.0 - - - West

These data clearly show that west Augusta has the highest frequency of criminal acts reported in clubs that reported crime.

Riverman1
83721
Points
Riverman1 05/20/13 - 09:45 am
2
0
Why Establishments Don't Call Police

My one-legged cuz runs a restaurant/bar/town meeting place in a small town in Orangeburg County. They have live country music on Saturday nights. Grandmothers go there to eat dinner on Sunday and the country folks come there most every afternoon and night to drink. Everyone in there is related to me I found out one night while talking to this beautiful woman. Heh, you have to be careful. If you are a local farm boy and under 21 you have to get your beer in a plastic pitcher to get around the law. It’s kind of an equal opportunity place because they have KKK meetings there on the second Tuesday night of the month, but also allow the black kids on the youth baseball teams to come there after games and give them free hamburgers. Everyone gets along. So now that I’ve told you the setting, let me relate this.

My one-legged cuz had a guy start acting up one night and had to call the Sheriff’s office. They showed up two days later. When he said they were a little late, they told him if he couldn’t control his customers, they would take his license. So he never called again. That’s what’s going on here.

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