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Sheriff proposes downtown safety plan, new tax to fund it

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 1:04 AM
Last updated 1:20 AM
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Sheriff Richard Round­tree’s recommendation for improving downtown safety includes closing a section of River­walk Augusta overnight, installing 32 security cameras and implementing new taxes to fund a “Continually Patrolled District.”

Sheriff Richard Roundtree recommends closing the riverwalk from 11 p.m. to sunrise between Fifth and Ninth streets.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
Sheriff Richard Roundtree recommends closing the riverwalk from 11 p.m. to sunrise between Fifth and Ninth streets.


Roundtree, who presented the plan to Augusta Commission members Monday, recommended that the riverwalk close from 11 p.m. to sunrise between Fifth and Ninth streets.

At the riverwalk, where a couple were brutally beaten late at night earlier this year, sheriff’s office statistics show most crime happens “after midnight,” Roundtree said.

Closure would give deputies probable cause to ask why people are there while it’s closed – to ask, “Why are you here at 2 o’clock in the morning?” the sheriff said.

Commissioner Alvin Ma­son said he had “concern” about closing an important landmark. “Having it shut down to me is a problem,” he said.
“I’m in support,” Commis­sioner Marion Williams said. “I’d like to see that hour maybe moved back. Not so early.”

That part of the plan is negotiable, Roundtree said, and the riverwalk would remain open during special events.

The sheriff also called for installing 32 security cameras along Broad Street and the riverwalk using an existing fiber-optic network that would allow downtown business owners to buy their own cameras, allowing a “32-camera solution” to become a “100-camera solution” to monitor activities downtown.

Roundtree said 32 cameras would cost about $342,000.

The final component of the safety proposal, which Roundtree said he developed with help from City Admin­is­trator Fred Russell, involves establishing a special tax district called a Continuously Patrolled District.

The CPD “is a proactive and innovative way to use the Business Im­prove­ment District mechanism to provide actual police officers solely dedicated to the downtown area, in addition to the officers who already patrol the area,” according to the presentation.

A BID administered by the Downtown Development Authority expired last year after many property owners complained. The DDA is “absolutely not” involved in the new district, Roundtree said.

The sheriff’s office would administer the program, which would use an extra tax against property owners inside the district to pay for six additional public safety personnel to supplement the three deputies currently assigned to downtown.

Roundtree used estimated collections from the expired BID, which ran from Greene Street to the river between 13th and Seventh streets. With that $353,834, he said, he could pay three cer­tified officers’ salaries and benefits for $142,170, buy three vehicles for $90,000, buy three bicycles for $3,000 and outfit the deputies for $19,500.

With a remaining $78,321, Round­tree said he could pay salaries and benefits of three “community safety officers,” bringing total safety personnel downtown to nine.

The sheriff’s office would collaborate with the new district’s board of directors to ensure funds were spent correctly, Roundtree said.

The existing BID board, still in place and led by Mor­ris Communications Vice Pres­ident Robert Kuhar, had planned a final meeting Fri­day to terminate the program. Kuhar said Monday that he was uncertain whether the company, a large downtown property owner, supported the new plan.

Russell said the old BID’s supporters were “going to help support this,” but none reached Monday had knowledge of it.

“My feeling is that the people, if they were approached right now, are going to be very skeptical about paying extra taxes,” said Julian Osbon, a supporter of the original BID and a large downtown property owner. “There are a lot of empty businesses down there that ought to be where those taxes come from.”

Commissioner Bill Fen­noy, whose District 1 includes downtown, said he didn’t yet have a feel for whether property owners were willing to pay extra taxes for officers.

A final aspect of the downtown plan replaces the former BID’s efforts to keep downtown clean. Presented by Russell, the cleanliness plan would allow business owners to donate money to a fund used by the Convention and Visitors Bureau to hire private staff to clean up, as the bureau has done at several city gateways, he said.

City General Counsel An­drew MacKenzie said the new CPD would likely require majority approval by property owners in its boundaries.
Commissioners were generally receptive to Round­tree’s proposal, and the public safety committee voted 4-0 to approve it.

Roundtree said his office is ready to move right away if the commission approves.

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countyman
20631
Points
countyman 07/09/13 - 02:12 am
3
11
Good plan

The only bad idea is closing the Riverwalk at 11pm. The Riverwalk is much different from anything in the CSRA. The Watermark development included two hotels before the recession killed the project. How could anybody think none of those visitors would have wanted to use the Riverwalk after 11pm? Do we really expect them to walk up and down Broad or go to sleep after 11? The Fort Discovery building is now Discovery Plaza, and will eventually attract something. What if some large company opened in the building? This would speed up the process of new residential. Plenty of the residents downtown want to visit the Riverwalk late at night. What if the city builds the new performing arts center on the a watermark site? There's too many unknowns in the future to close the Riverwalk at 11pm.

The riverfront of Augusta will look totally different 5-10 years from now. The GGHF site and the watermark site/train depot are going to include large construction projects. The TEE Center continues to attract growth, and the hotel near the common should finally come to fruition.

The nightlife scene along the riverfront will be one of Augusta's main selling points in the future. Crime will continue to happen after midnight no matter what.

The Riverwalk is one of the main attractions if Augusta wants to attract over 2 million instead of 1.5 million tourist.

kayekaye37
44
Points
kayekaye37 07/09/13 - 01:56 am
11
2
Closing Riverwalk

If you close Riverwalk then you need to close Broad Street too. So what he is saying is it is not good to be on the Riverwalk past 11pm but it is ok to be on Broad past that time? What is the difference? Neither is a safe place to be after 11pm but ppl still do it no matter what!

noxiousfumes
468
Points
noxiousfumes 07/09/13 - 02:11 am
8
2
Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES.

Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES. Before we kill the roach with a F-15 jet, let's look at simple things like making sure all the lights have new bulbs, increasing foot patrols (so we don't have folks stealing stereos out of cars with a deputy a few feet away), and closing the Riverwalk between 2 am and sunrise.

countyman
20631
Points
countyman 07/09/13 - 02:59 am
4
14
Crime rate

Kayekaye37. The Broad street in Harrisburg is still kinda rough, but the Kroc Center is helping improve things. The Broad street in the CBD and Olde Town don't have the same number of violent crime incidents. I live downtown in the CBD, and have zero problems with crime.

One crime incident at the Riverwalk in sixteen months didn't make the area this dangerous place.

Can you name all of the places in the CSRA with a clear advantage in terms of disposable income in 2013 over the CBD(Aiken, West Augusta, Forest Hills, Evans, Martinez, & Summerville). The CBD will easily surpass the Martinez area in the near future.

Don't let the media fool you when they go find one person who said they don't feel safe at night( the person doesn't even live in RC the majority of time), but the same media never interviews the thousands of people who actually live in the CBD.

Do people actually think none of the residents downtown arrive home late at night everyday? I keep hearing about the people coming downtown, but the media continues to ignore the thousands of people who call the CBD home.

specsta
6610
Points
specsta 07/09/13 - 02:55 am
12
6
Deterrence?

Am I the only one who is tired of knee-jerk reactions to things?

People get mugged and assaulted on the Riverwalk so that means it must be closed at night. Citizens cannot enjoy the area, thanks to some knuckle-heads. They dictate what happens in Augusta, not the law-abiding citizens. Check off one victory for the criminals.

People have brawls on Broad Street and cars get broken into. That means we must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to install cameras that violate everyone right to privacy, even though cameras DO NOT prevent crime or even reduce it - cameras only help to ID some of the perpetrators of crime.

Check off the next victory for the criminals.

Maybe we should build a fence around downtown Augusta, monitor it with jack-booted para-military police, force people to "show their papers", make them walk through a body scanner and then recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then we'll all be safe downtown, right?

Or...

Augusta can stop being a victim. Get serious about addressing the issues that allow crime to take place. It ain't about more cops in cars, cameras in the trees or closing parks. Deterrents are important (such as misdemeanor arrests) but crime is reduced when people are employed, when wages are increased. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that murders and robberies are reduced when folks have work and are paid a living wage.

"Increases in the real minimum wage are found to significantly reduce robberies and murders, and higher unemployment is significantly related to more burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. Thus, although it is not always the same economic indicator, there is evidence that economic conditions impact all felony crimes except assaults." National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper

Instead of spending $350,000 on new cameras, put that money toward intervention programs that educate young people on how to get jobs and handle finances.

Also, neighbors and residents in the downtown area can be the social glue that holds the area together. Business owners and neighbors looking out for each other.

The other issue is the image of the police in Augusta. When citizens see cops speeding, not obeying traffic laws, wrecking police cars, harassing citizens on the street, being disrespectful just because they have a badge - and even being involved with incidents like the fatal Tasering, there is an image problem. Folks worry that they themselves might wind up dead just because they called the police.

Until law enforcement is seen as that entity "to protect and to serve" instead of "keep out of their way so they don't arrest or shoot us" - people will not use the police as a welcome resource in their community.

Roundtree has made some significant strides with community policing - but he has a long way to go.

All of these elements are what will reduce crime - but putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound isn't going to work. Augusta must stop being a victim and become proactive in transforming the city through economic development. People with jobs and education and a roof over their heads aren't going around knocking old ladies out to grab their purses...

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 07/09/13 - 03:03 am
10
9
"Folks worry that they

"Folks worry that they themselves might wind up dead just because they called the police."

Really? I've never worried about that. Of course, I don't use illegal drugs, I don't commit crimes, I don't get arrested, the police never have to use a Taser on me. Maybe that's why I don't worry about the police and never have.

countyman
20631
Points
countyman 07/09/13 - 03:34 am
4
8
Cameras

Specsta.. I do agree in terms of addressing the social issues, and the knee jerk reaction to crime. The crime rate in Augusta is lower compared to many of the peer cities across the US.

The cameras are needed in the urban core, and the main corridors in the suburbs. The cameras won't stop crime, but you can identify the suspects much easier. I know many people who think twice of running the yellow light at traffic signals equipped with cameras that can take the picture of your license plate.

I love the idea of fighting crime through education, community outreach, and economic development. I suggested yesterday how the city needs to help build new community centers, parks, boys & girls clubs, etc. The Jesye Norman School, JAMP, Augusta Mini theater, etc also need to receive increased funding. Please use the gym at Laney or Glenn Hills for the next job fair in the county. Focus on bringing jobs in/around East Augusta, Barton Village, Harrisburg, MLK, etc. The most important thing is keeping non violent criminals away from the real thugs. Were sending non violent small time drug dealers to jail/prison so they can meet up with the hardcore criminals. Anybody caught with less than 1 ounce of marijuana should receive a citation, and let go.

The location of two or three future public buildings must be somewhere in East Augusta, Laney Walker, Harrisburg, along Deans Bridge near Regency Mall, etc.

Riverman1
87157
Points
Riverman1 07/09/13 - 03:56 am
9
4
Agree With Proposals

I agree with all the proposals and have actually brought them up in the past. Closing Riverwalk at 11 or 12 is no different than closing a park at night. The cameras with the businesses providing many of them is also a good idea. Lastly, having the businesses, especially the Marriott on the Riverwalk, pay to have security makes sense.

RoadkiII
6703
Points
RoadkiII 07/09/13 - 05:01 am
13
3
Great Idea... NOT

Ignore the problem (close riverwalk) and throw money at it (new tax) and the problem would go away. By that thinking we shouldn't have any problems at in in America. All the government wants to do is throw money at any problem.

In this case, crime will simply relocate. To kill a snake you need to cut the head off.

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 07/09/13 - 05:49 am
9
4
Who are all these people that

Who are all these people that are being put in jail for less than 1 oz of marijuana? (There aren't any, the ones that are being arrested and taken to jail have more than that or are arrested on other charges. But don't confuse people with the truth.)

Go to the Richmond County Inmate site. Pick a page, and look at the charges. There isn't anybody in there whose only offense was misdemeanor marijuana posssession. They aren't going to waste valuable jail space and time for that. It's too expensive to house prisoners over a charge like that, and the jail is packed to the gills as it is.

Wake up, this is 2013, nobody is jailed for that any more.

However, if someone is dealing in it, they can and should be arrested. To suggest that they are "non-violent" just isn't true. Unless, of course, you want to believe that they are all just nice people, doing a community service, and don't carry guns, don't ever assault people, don't ever threaten people, and aren't willing to shoot somebody. That they never sell to kids, and that they are fine, upstanding citizens.

Sure.

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 07/09/13 - 06:05 am
7
7
But I still don't understand

But I still don't understand why a plan is needed for an area that is "safe".

And I can guarantee you that the bar owners will scream bloody murder when the police start patrolling, because the drunks won't want to come down there, they'll be too afraid of getting arrested for public intox or DUI. And the business will drop, and they will say that it will put them out of business. This will be just like their complaints about Operation Thunder.

That's why the police don't patrol down there at night right now. This is nothing new.

nocnoc
45125
Points
nocnoc 07/09/13 - 07:40 am
6
3
Mixed feeling on tis ones

Something needs to be done, but, something needs to be done logically that also protects the digital privacy of innocent visitors.

Item #1
A 32-camera solution growing to a 100-camera solution to monitor activities downtown smacks of Big Brother and if implemented, MUST have OCGA mandated Digital Privacy Guarantees for non-criminal visitors.

Meaning the media or others cannot have access to non-criminal video segments.

A GA LAW that clearly states Non-criminal video segments will not be retained in in any fashion beyond 90 or 180 days. Nor can non-criminal Video segments be shared shared with others, including federal and other states and agencies. Allowing those whose privacy has been violated to sue RCSO, ARC and others for $$$ and complete deletion.
Plus a requirement that the party(s) guilty of sharing non-criminal video segments be charged with a misdemeanor 6months minimum jail time, within 180 days and placed on unpaid leave from employment once charged.

Item #2
As I have said before, Cameras are a weak solution, because they document crime they do not make arrests. I myself, have security cameras around my house. YES they are deterrent to some would be thieves. But I have had Thieves steal the cameras and have had numerous documented criminal violations where no arrest was made. In fact out of, say about 15 documented criminal violations or 2 years. Only 1 resulted in the police speaking with the 2 involved and still no arrest was made. Because I put up reward posters to locate the pair and turned the names over to the Investigators. I did get my cameras replaced and the pair moved on to other areas.

Item #3
The $300K quoted is in line to purchase and initially installed the cameras.
IF Megapixel 200x zoom 0.001 luminous PTZ cameras are used.

But to make them work, the Riverwalk will have to be physically changed, to allow line of sight and field of view for the cameras. Bluntly put Trees must fall and lots of bushes must be removed.

Item #4
What was not mention was the added cost of monitoring the cameras.
Given Government and it typical bureaucracy, this will require 2-3 people per monitoring shift. A Leader and 1-2 worker bees. Or, if they do not plan to activity monitor the cameras and only pull video when they need to the thieves will figure that out quickly and the cameras will be useless.

Simply put. To properly secure Downtown will require leather on the on the streets. I do support the part where Sheriff Roundtree proposes:

3 LEO
3 vehicles
3 bicycles for $3,000
and outfit the deputies for $19,500.
But that does not cover the area 24/7 it only covers it 24/5.

nocnoc
45125
Points
nocnoc 07/09/13 - 07:40 am
8
1
Wanted to make sure everybody saw this.

ANOTHER NEW TAX ??

Fred Russell said this involves establishing a special tax district called a Continuously Patrolled District. CPD is this a Downtown Local Tax or is this a ARC wide paid tax for something that is only for Downtown?

Either way it is another TAX on top of how many SPLOST, TSPLOST Taxes now.

Can Augusta afford to another tax paid by local area shopper sna diners when just across the river it is 4+ cent less on the dollar?

One last thing the way Sheriff Roundtree stated parts were open to negotiation gives off a negative impression. It sounds like HE can dictate that projects will be done and expenditures of non-budgeted funds be allocated and the ARC Commission can only must negotiate with him.

nocnoc
45125
Points
nocnoc 07/09/13 - 07:40 am
9
2
“Why are you here at 2 o’clock in the morning?”

Fishing,

there is a River with fish in it.

GnipGnop
12467
Points
GnipGnop 07/09/13 - 07:43 am
5
2
One person?

The sheriff and whole commission have just told you by wanting to close it down that there is a safety issue....The final component of the safety proposal, which Roundtree said he developed with help from City Admin­is­trator Fred Russell, involves establishing a special tax district called a Continuously Patrolled District.....and I love the fact how renters never have a problem with someone else having to pay more taxes for their benefit!!

seenitB4
90981
Points
seenitB4 07/09/13 - 07:44 am
6
3
I like his ideas

I say go with it....maybe make the cutoff time at 130am,....but let the business downtown pay for cameras & etc....we fuss about crime all the time on here....well he comes up with a plan & some veto it.....you can't have it both ways.....I assure you it will get worse......maybe the camera does catch someone after the act BUT that thug would be out of action for awhile....

Some say use preventive actions...well duh....we have tried that for YEARS.....

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:45 am
1
0
Not a curfew? We can't use that word. Personal Freedom.
Unpublished

Not a curfew? We can't use that word. Personal Freedom.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:46 am
1
0
Who stole the budgeted money for police patrols in the CBD?
Unpublished

Who stole the budgeted money for police patrols in the CBD?

seenitB4
90981
Points
seenitB4 07/09/13 - 07:47 am
4
1
Think about this

If you have another beating like the Riverwalk incident.....well you can shut down your downtown business...I would pay the extra if I owned a business in town.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:47 am
1
0
Who stole the budgeted money for RiverWalk maintenance?
Unpublished

Who stole the budgeted money for RiverWalk maintenance?

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:48 am
1
0
There is a major leak in the ARC and it is not water. Money.
Unpublished

There is a major leak in the ARC and it is not water. Money.

grinder48
2019
Points
grinder48 07/09/13 - 07:49 am
1
0
They Win
Unpublished

Close Riverwalk? The sheriff admits defeat and the bad guys win. Great ...

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:49 am
0
1
Ben Dover is in ARC to serve the ignorant and apathetic. LOL
Unpublished

Ben Dover is in ARC to serve the ignorant and apathetic. LOL

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:50 am
1
0
Make the Roaches uncomfortable and they will leave.
Unpublished

Make the Roaches uncomfortable and they will leave.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/09/13 - 07:52 am
1
0
Cameras in every bank, quick stop, gas station. Working for U?
Unpublished

Cameras in every bank, quick stop, gas station. Working for U?

Little Lamb
47042
Points
Little Lamb 07/09/13 - 07:53 am
5
2
No New Tax

We are taxed enough, already.

GnipGnop
12467
Points
GnipGnop 07/09/13 - 07:58 am
5
4
Dumb idea

Instead of spending $350,000 on new cameras, put that money toward intervention programs that educate young people on how to get jobs and handle finances.....either you have morals or you don't...it starts in the home....you can spend all the money you want and you are not going to teach someone who lives in a home that teaches zero responsibility anything..the only thing they will learn is that there is another free program for them to get something for nothing, paid for by some hard working citizen that must be responsible, drug free and pay taxes on everything from their car, house, and trash to the rain that falls in their yard.

naycan
42
Points
naycan 07/09/13 - 08:08 am
2
0
Cannot be done in that form

Someone needs to read the code forming BIDs. The sheriff's office cannot operate a BID. It has to be a seperate entity run outside of the government. If the property owners agree to that, then they are not good business people.

Little Lamb
47042
Points
Little Lamb 07/09/13 - 08:13 am
5
1
Knee Jerk

You have one mugging down there (terrible though it was) and Fred Russell jumps into the mess and proposes a new tax. I am grateful to naycan for pointing out that Russell is wrong as rain in saying a new BID will solve all issues.

seenitB4
90981
Points
seenitB4 07/09/13 - 08:15 am
6
0
About Roundtree

I think he knows what he is dealing with......some crime will be a constant threat to society....we would like to educate others but that is NOT always possible....if it were possible we wouldn't have the trouble we have today..stop dreaming that you can give others morals--respect--the desire to live in safety.......wish we could but through eons of time I don't see it.

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