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Riverwalk crime, old mill on agenda

Monday, May 6, 2013 8:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, May 7, 2013 1:20 AM
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Safety at Riverwalk Augusta was on Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy’s mind before a couple was mugged and beaten late Friday behind Port Royal.

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The afternoon sun hits the burned-out Southern Milling building on Twiggs Street. The Augusta Commission will look again today at demolishing it.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
The afternoon sun hits the burned-out Southern Milling building on Twiggs Street. The Augusta Commission will look again today at demolishing it.

Already on today’s meeting agenda was Fennoy’s request for the commission to consider installing security cameras and warning signs along the riverwalk, an effort he said might deter crime and make visitors feel safer.

“It was surveillance cameras that were used to help find the Boston Marathon bombers; once the criminal element knows how effective those cameras are, it could keep them from coming downtown to try to commit a crime,” Fennoy said.

How to proceed with placing, monitoring and funding the cameras would be up to the commission and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Fennoy said.

Commissioner Mary Davis said she was “very concerned” about the incident.

“Something needs to be done,” whether better lighting, better security, emergency phones or something else, Davis said.

Commissioner Joe Jackson urged residents not to let their guard down when downtown but welcomed the idea of cameras, with an eye toward their cost and using private funding.

“It should have been done 15 years ago,” Jackson said. “Do I think a camera would have prevented this? No, I think a camera would have identified the subjects.”

Any new programs ought to be viewed in light of the city’s limited operations budget and the possibility that the next special-purpose local option sales tax will not pass, Jackson said.

“There’s already $40 million spent on a SPLOST that we haven’t even passed yet,” he said of the commission’s decision to renovate the municipal building by issuing bonds, whose debt service is assumed to come from the next tax.

Commissioner Marion Williams said he hoped to see the sheriff put the muggers and other downtown miscreants “under the jail” but said he supported the idea of cameras.

“Cameras are used to catch people speeding, shoplifting, breaking and entering,” Williams said. “I think that would be a good use of taxpayers’ money.”

The commission will also look at tearing down a burned-out mill that Williams said is overdue for demolition.

Southern Milling, on the Augusta Canal at1015 Twiggs St., has unpaid property taxes and fees dating at least to 2002.The tax commissioner said in 2011 that it can’t be auctioned because of environmental issues, including asbestos.

In the meantime, the burned mill and its 20-plus silos have fallen further into disrepair, Williams said.

“People question me every day about it,” he said. “People want to know when are we going to look like the rest of the city.”

Williams said that the city might have the resources to demolish the mill and that he’d like the commission to explore its options.

Fennoy said that although his focus has been on dilapidated houses in District 1, the city has a problem with dilapidated buildings, too, including in areas used as gateways for the city.

Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman said the mill’s owner will appear at today’s meeting to hear the commission’s concerns.

The last time the planning department looked at options for demolishing the mill, estimates came to around $150,000.The demolition company was given the right to salvage materials from it, Sherman said.

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Riverman1 05/06/13 - 09:29 pm
I hope Sheriff Rountree and

I hope Sheriff Rountree and the RCSO are able to bring the miscreants, as Commissioner Williams calls them, to justice.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/06/13 - 11:03 pm
Horrible Crime

And I am so sorry for the South Carolina victims who were enjoying a picturesque and romantic scene at our riverfront.

But this knee-jerk response is too sudden, too emotion-filled. We need to look into all possibilities before jumping on this surveillance camera solution. Put this vicious attack into perspective. Put the crime rate into perspective. Commissioners, do not let your emotions cripple the taxpayers with non-proven, personnel-intensive solutions. Talk to some experts. Talk to some beat cops.

Frank I
Frank I 05/06/13 - 11:04 pm
We don't need security

We don't need security cameras, we need to fund the Sheriff's Office so that their able to provide adequate coverage.. I'll be the first to admit being critical of RCSO, but to some extent the blame lies at the hands of the Kommission that continues to refuse funding.. If you don't fund the police, the policing can't get done! Joe Jackson's approach just proves the point. We don't want to fund what can help proactively, lets throw money at something that only helps AFTER THE FACT..

GnipGnop 05/06/13 - 11:38 pm
So they are going to use....

Tax money to put cameras in to benefit only the downtown area? Yep sounds about right. I am looking forward to the day the market turns around enough to get me off the ARC tax digest...

restguy 05/07/13 - 12:24 am
"Warning Signs" would say

"Warning Signs" would say what? Don't come downtown at night? Ok I don't anyway.....

specsta 05/07/13 - 02:50 am
Community Policing

There is always a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy. Unfortunately, most ideas that come into being in the name of "security" are ineffective - and are invasive of people's privacy.

Folks think surveillance video cameras are the Holy Grail of security. They may help police catch a few thugs, yes - but at what price?

Do we really want our daily strolls on Riverwalk monitored by the police? Do we really want a hidden camera camouflaged in a streetlight to record our first hand-in-hand stroll with a new date and witness our impromptu kiss at the Commons? Do we really want recorded video, ready to be perused at will, by the cops, while we joyously celebrate a parade coming down Broad Street? Do we really want our children to be secretly monitored as they run giggling and screaming on a hot summer's day through the Riverwalk fountain?

The solution is not video surveillance.

The solution is cops performing community policing. Not some show of force and intimidation by sunglasses-wearing police peering through the windows of their cars, waiting for somebody to screw up - but by police who are known in the neighborhoods, who treat citizens with courtesy and respect and who demonstrate the concept that they are there for protection and safety - cops who are like a human version of "Superman".

Police who understand that their role is that of a servant to the people - "to protect and to serve". Personal contact with citizens fosters trust and mutual respect is a strong bond.

That may be a dream of an ideal world. But here's the thing - as long as people are intimidated by cops, don't think that cops have their best interests at heart, don't trust the police at any level, feel they are being treated unfairly or with disrespect, community policing will never work. The "us against then" mentality will continue to flourish.

And crimes will continue to flourish and people will not come forward with information.

Video surveillance is just a band-aid on a severed artery. Community policing at street level is the major restorative surgery.

nocnoc 05/07/13 - 06:52 am
“It was surveillance cameras that were used to help

find the Boston Pair"

Actually Individuals with Smart Phone users provided the BEST and Clearest pictures of the pair.

But I can see we already have politicians jumping on the Bandwagon to SPEND taxpayer $$$$$ we don't have.

Will Fred Russell Propose a CAMERA TAX next?
Will we call it the "Business Aide Tax"(BAT) ?

In another comment about cameras ]
I discussed where I did a quick 10,000 ft view of Riverwalk using Google Maps. To properly cover Riverwalk with security cameras will take over 70 cameras. Personnel to monitor and report, hardware, installation and etc. could easily run millions of dollars. and another 1/2 to 3/4 of a Million a year in support and personnel costs

We need to make sure the Downtowner's don't toss $$$ at a pipe dream that will cost the taxpayer $$$ and more.

Physical Security should be the 1st step implemented
Limited access points control and record who uses Riverwalk.
Hire 2 foot/bike patrol officers after dark.

Used a limited number of WIFI accessible cameras, connected to 4 week duration DVR backups. The design should allow immediate accessed by the foot/bike patrol officers using a Smart Phone.

A few things to Remember
1. Cameras Never arrested a criminal.
2. Cameras document crimes and seldom prevent them.
3. We see it everyday,criminals just cover their faces or wear the PC cloak of invisibility called a HOODIE.
4. Cameras are good only as a deterrent, provided the criminal KNOW that immediate enforcement is forthcoming.

Face it Downtown you need Physical Security and LEO's with soles on the pavement. before you can go high tech.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/07/13 - 07:50 am

So the owner of the Southern Milling building quit paying property taxes twelve or more years ago. The tax commissioner says he can't auction the property on the courthouse steps like he would do to me if I quit paying taxes.

The "environmental issues" thing is a cop out from the tax commissioner. As long as everything is properly disclosed, one can sell property with environmental issues. Of course, once sold, the new owner might take his time in doing anything with it.

Sometimes, commissioners, when your constituents come to you complaining about eyesores, you just need to tell them, "Look the other way. It's not hurting you."

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/07/13 - 07:54 am
Specsta & nocnoc

had the best comments regarding cameras vs. community policing up above.

nocnoc 05/07/13 - 08:59 am
Thank you LL

I feel Specsta nailed it better.

I was only pointing out the technical security flaws.
The Right to some reasonable form of Public Personal Privacy is absolutely needed in this technical Info age.

The Digital Privacy Act proposed by a majority of the Internets early founders and adopters. It is where I would like to see the USA in <5 years.

That is why I have supported the EFF for several years.

One of their most interesting victories involved DIE BOLD & Election fraud.

The problem is Governments and businesses see Electronic info as a Gold Mine to use and abuse.

David Parker
David Parker 05/07/13 - 02:51 pm
Joe Jackson had an "eye

Joe Jackson had an "eye toward private funding" so not-so-fast on the SPLOST bashing/bandwagon, dependeth. I'm for the cams. Frankly, i was unaware that most of the CBD wasn't already filmed. Get up to speed yall!

Before cams even, put some LEO-moles in the area, at random, and have them act as any tourist/visitor would act. Eventually, like rats to cheese, you'll get a nibble. Then WHAMMO! the trap slams shut and either their nose is crooked beyond repair or it snaps their spine in two. Either way, problem solved for that mouse.

Darby 05/07/13 - 03:52 pm
I have no problem with surveillance cameras

in public places. We're being caught on video almost every moment we are out of our houses now anyway. What do you think those teens with their cells are doing?

Might as well record the activities of a few crooks while we are at it.

Kingbiscuitboy 05/07/13 - 10:28 pm
High crime area

What are these signs going to say, "High Crime Area, proceed at your own risk after dark"? Might as well post them all over the downtown area.

Darby 05/08/13 - 11:44 pm
"What are these signs going to say, "High

Crime Area, proceed at your own risk after dark"? "...

And if they do, will they be any more effective than the ones posted at our schools that say, "Drug Fee Zone"??????

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