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Augusta Commission talks downtown crime

Commission wants plan to secure downtown

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 10:25 PM
Last updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013 1:40 AM
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A weekend mugging and a carjacking in downtown Augusta prompted a flurry of suggestions Tuesday that Augusta Commission members said they hope can meld into a “holistic approach” to crime downtown.

Dr. Benjamin Casella, the president of the Downtown Augusta Alliance, addresses the Augusta Commission. Much of Tuesday's meeting was spent discussing ways to increase safety and reduce crime downtown.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Dr. Benjamin Casella, the president of the Downtown Augusta Alliance, addresses the Augusta Commission. Much of Tuesday's meeting was spent discussing ways to increase safety and reduce crime downtown.

Commissioner Bill Fen­noy, whose District 1 includes downtown and Riverwalk Augusta, where a visiting couple were beaten and robbed Friday, said something must be done to keep visitors coming downtown. He had placed a discussion about installing cameras and signs along the riverwalk on Tues­day’s meeting agenda before the weekend attacks took place.

“In light of what has happened in downtown Augusta, in light of what we’re talking about revenues going down, we don’t want Augusta given the image of an unsafe city,” he said, suggesting a committee evaluate the options and make recommendations.
Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson and Commissioner Mary Davis said they agreed with the need to develop a complete approach to address downtown crime.

“I agree we need to sit down with IT, the sheriff’s office,” Davis said. “This is on everybody’s mind right now, and if we can get a complete proposal for what we can do to encompass every part of security, and make people feel safe, and look at lighting as well. That’s another issue I would like to bring to the table.”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he’d like to see increased security presence, possibly using a set of Segways now in storage since the city’s downtown special tax district expired.

“I just want to make sure that we’re looking at this situation with a holistic point of view,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said. “Not necessarily a knee-jerk reaction” to weekend events, which also include a brawl caught on video and posted by bystanders on Youtube.

“It’s an embarrassment, no question about it,” Mason said.

He said he wanted involvement of the sheriff’s office.

“I would be a little skeptical about doing anything initially,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that’s the job of the chief law enforcement officer.”

Commissioner Marion Williams said he agreed with involving the sheriff, but that there were some things the city could do, such as cutting back overgrown shrubbery and trees that obscure visibility and give criminals a place to hide. He also suggested bringing service animals downtown to assist.

The commission approved the discussion as information and agreed to work toward developing a plan.

Also on Tuesday, the city’s sales tax revenues, subject of an earlier commission discussion, were reported to be down for the month and year, but City Administrator Fred Russell maintained that the 4 percent to 6 percent decreases weren’t worthy of concern yet.

IN OTHER ACTION

The commission took little action regarding the burned Southern Milling feed mill on Twiggs Street after hearing from former city attorney Jim Wall that ongoing litigation involving owner Edgar Matthews had delayed his action on the mill.

Commissioner Marion Williams said the structure, which had been on the city’s list of endangered properties when fire caused significant damage, is a hazard to the community.

“Ain’t but one man that’s got enough money to fix that place up and it’s God,” he said.

Wall promised action in six to eight months, and the commission tasked Administrator Fred Russell with providing a monthly update on its status.

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fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 05/07/13 - 09:44 pm
10
1
Sorry Mr. Mason ...
Unpublished

Forget about looking at this with a holistic point of view. I think a knee-jerk reaction is exactly what is warranted at this point. Unless your goal is to make downtown Augusta a proverbial ghost town.

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 05/07/13 - 09:53 pm
12
0
And to Commissioner Williams ...
Unpublished

My family and I were considering visiting downtown Augusta recently but were concerned about the recent spike in criminal activity and assaults. Our fears have been allayed now that I have learned of your steadfast commitment to "cutting back overgrown shrubbery and trees" in order to reduce the amount of crime. I feel safer already.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 05/07/13 - 10:31 pm
7
0
Physical Security, Not Electronic Security

Must be the 1st step.

Cameras "document crime" LEO's make arrests.

To set up and monitor a camera operation will cost millions and then 250k to 400K a year to monitor and maintain.

IF the goal really is safety and not a behind the scenes private security camera deal with a "special" friend in the works.

Then hire 4 more cops to patrol after dark until 4:30am 5am.
Have them WALK or ride a bike to conduct continuous Patrols.
Require 1 always be on beat if one is on break.

BTW: they don't need $5,000 shoes or $15,000 Mountain bikes
So don't go Christmas Shopping in May.

Physical Security when augmented with High Tech works best as the rule of thumb.

Cameras don't scare a guy wearing a Disposable Hoodie.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 05/08/13 - 05:06 am
9
1
Was the Sheriff there?

Seems like there should be some direct involvement on the part of RCSO in this.

There must be significant changes made in the security posture downtown, I suggest augmenting the RCSO with armed professional private security officers to fill the gaps.

PitchFork007
473
Points
PitchFork007 05/08/13 - 05:33 am
10
0
Live, courageous, plain-clothed, human deputy-decoys

To decrease violent crime, Sheriff Roundtree should employ criminal capture sting-teams by planting live, courageous, plain-clothed, human deputy-decoys to appear as vulnerable victim-targets. Plant these teams on the Riverwalk, around town, and anywhere that violent crime is a problem.

Bodhisattva
7182
Points
Bodhisattva 05/08/13 - 05:15 am
7
0
Watching the local news last

Watching the local news last night ( I think it was 12), we were amazed at the number of lights that were out. Then they said there were 2 cops to cover downtown and Riverwalk. 2? What kind of city especially the second largest in a state has only 2 cops on the beat in its downtown area? We may have misunderstood what they were taking about but it not, really? I'd say the Riverwatch area needs at least 2 at all times and the downtown area 6-8. A buddy of mine told me how they have it set up in Memphis. I know Memphis is actually a tourist town and has many more year round visitors than Augusta ever thought about having but: They took one of the old buildings on Beale, the street with all of the blues clubs (Beale is also closed to nothing but foot traffic at night and people are free to walk from club/restaurant to club safely) and made a police museum. It has an old cell you can sit in and get your picture taken for giggles, a bunch of historical stuff they've confiscated over the years, etc. Really pretty cool the way he described it and the shots he had. It's also a working substation. It has a bank of monitors manned 24/7 with cameras mounted up and down the tourist area. Cops up and down the streets and coming in and out of the substation. Parking was behind the buildings and my buddy's battery died. He called AAA, but said he had 2 cops stop and check to see if he was ok while waiting for them, the 2nd had cables (he was in some of vehicle) and jumped him off so he canceled AAA. He said there wasn't a moment they didn't feel safe. Of course he also said there wasn't a moment they didn't feel watched either but it's like being in Disneyland. You're in touristland so you should expect it. Augusta needs to get its act together. Yeah the stuff costs money. We can see that not spending it cost lives. Maybe, just maybe, if they spend it and word gets out that Augusta has a cool place to go that's safe, eventually it will pay for itself.

LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 05/08/13 - 05:39 am
4
7
No CADI: more trash, more crime, more trouble

Intentionally or not, City sent the message, "we don't care" when it killed this program.

jmo
18482
Points
jmo 05/08/13 - 05:53 am
11
0
Take some of the Operation Thunder...

deputies and put them downtown.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 05/08/13 - 06:58 am
0
0
pass a "magilla" rule none
Unpublished

pass a "magilla" rule none allowed downtown past 8pm also institute profiling and "stop and frisk" for all suspicious looking "magillas"

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 07:09 am
5
0
Difference of Opinion

I think that when the city killed the CADI program, they for once sent the message, "we care about our taxpayers."

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 07:13 am
5
0
Segway

From the story:

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he’d like to see increased security presence, possibly using a set of Segways now in storage since the city’s downtown special tax district expired.

How would you like to be that lone city employee assigned to ride a Segway up and down Riverwalk between midnight and 8:00 a.m.?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/08/13 - 07:29 am
2
0
Spend plenty of time on the

Spend plenty of time on the range and gym and make sure you get paid some differential for the off-hours. Shouldn't be impossible to find someone willing to help the city out here.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 05/08/13 - 07:37 am
6
1
Being the lone city employee

"How would I like being the lone city employee assigned to ride a Segway up and down Riverwalk between midnight and 8:00 a.m.?"

Do I get a Pistol and a ammo allotment?☺

Boudreaux
127
Points
Boudreaux 05/08/13 - 07:47 am
6
2
"We don't want Augusta given

"We don't want Augusta given the image of an unsafe city"

Augusta has had the image of an unsafe city for years, now it appears to be just plain dangerous.

rational thought trumps emotion
2682
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 05/08/13 - 08:10 am
7
0
Use a varied approach

1. The shrubs should always be maintained. Also, closed buildings should be secured and dilapidated houses in the nearby areas should be demolished. Hold the owners of the buildings responsible through code enforcement and the county needs to do its job as well.

2. Lights that are not working need to be fixed weekly. Keeping the area well lit is important.

3. Hire more police officers. The commission has de-funded over 40 law enforcement positions within the RCSO and a few non-law enforcement positions within the last 3 years. Public Safety has not been a priority and yet it should be the number one priority of the county. Additionally, correct the major salary problems within the RCSO in order to improve officer retention. Well trained officers who know the area and live within the community benefit the community better than the continual influx of personnel that use our county as a training opportunity to move on towards a decent livable wage at another agency.

4. Use technology in combination with highly trained law enforcement officers. The use of cameras in a city such as ours should have taken place a long time ago. Cameras not only are effective at catching criminals after the fact but do act as a deterrent to would be criminals just as alarm systems do in homes.

5. Stay involved. The community and the sheriff’s office must stay engaged and work together, not simply wait for a problem to occur before taking appropriate action.

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 08:22 am
5
0
Close

How about putting signs up at Riverwalk saying, “Riverwalk Park is closed between dusk and dawn. Enter at your own risk.” ? That wouldn't cost very much.

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 08:24 am
5
0
Light Bulbs

If they won't trim the shrubbery and they won't replace burned out light bulbs, then what makes us think they would maintain a camera surveillance system properly?

Oh, yes, and after I typed that paragraph, it just dawned on me that maybe the light bulbs were not burned out, but instead were smashed by the punks who hang out down there.

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 08:31 am
2
0
Pedestrian

Hey, Bodhisattva gave me an idea when he posted this:

(Beale is also closed to nothing but foot traffic at night and people are free to walk from club/restaurant to club safely)

We can make Reynolds Street pedestrian-only whenever there is an event at the Augusta Convention Center at the Marriott Hotel! That way, there will be no need for Paul Simon's proposed pedestrian sky-bridge.

Riverman1
93487
Points
Riverman1 05/08/13 - 08:32 am
6
0
Marriott Should Fund Two Officers for Riverwalk

The Marriott should employ at least two officers to patrol the Riverwalk. The bars and restaurants in the area should jointly fund another.

Riverman1
93487
Points
Riverman1 05/08/13 - 08:34 am
6
1
The Marriott should provide

The Marriott should provide guns to be signed out by guests who want to walk on the Riverwalk at nighttime.

seenitB4
97254
Points
seenitB4 05/08/13 - 09:18 am
5
0
RM

I think you have found the right solution.......another is what nocnoc said....collect money for a reward for naming the punks.

I will contribute some to that.

triscuit
3266
Points
triscuit 05/08/13 - 09:41 am
4
0
Spend millions on a Tee

Spend millions on a Tee center to draw visitors downtown. Can't quite commit to spending a little more to keep them safe? How about stopping giving raises to every already-overpaid person who whines for one and put the money elsewhere to protect the ones who pay the salaries?

Riverman1
93487
Points
Riverman1 05/08/13 - 09:44 am
3
0
SeenIt, Absolutely

Let the bottom line of the Marriott and other businesses in the area be affected and action will be taken. Private businesses hiring officers will have an IMMEDIATE positive effect. Those on Broad St. could do the same thing. Let them up their prices if need be to pay for the officers. Call it a security tax.

itsanotherday1
48270
Points
itsanotherday1 05/08/13 - 10:54 am
4
0
Putting prices

on their heads is really a sound idea. With the way the city fritters away money, it should be easy to set aside $100K kitty for tips leading to arrests, and replenish what is used annually.

Throw $10K out there for information on the Riverwalk thugs and I guarantee you someone will chirp; you know these low-lifes had to go brag about it.

Riverman1
93487
Points
Riverman1 05/08/13 - 11:09 am
5
0
"Stored" Segways

"Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he’d like to see increased security presence, possibly using a set of Segways now in storage since the city’s downtown special tax district expired."

If you think they can actually find those "stored" Segways, I've got a house to sell you in Richmond County.

crossyourarms
218
Points
crossyourarms 05/08/13 - 11:54 am
3
0
Is the best you guys could do

Is the best you guys could do is to print Marion Williams saying we need to trim the shrubbery? Really?

Friday and Saturday nights.
2 officers at Riverwalk and at least 4 on Broad Street... ON FOOT. Not at a roadblock. Not in a patrol car. On FOOT.

Officers have to work somewhere, don't they? We shouldn't need a separate "fund" for this. The RCSO needs to ASSIGN them to these dedicated beats for public safety.

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 12:08 pm
2
0
Storage

I hope they didn't ask Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick to be in charge of storing the Segways.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 12:45 pm
1
2
Facts

1. Zero homicides in over two years
2. The last shooting in July of 2012
3. Very low number of violent crimes

How can some people be so afraid when you considered the facts? The Riverwalk incident is terrible, but I've never seen a city come to a complete stop over a fight at 2:30 am.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/08/13 - 01:29 pm
1
0
I had dibs on the Segs.

I had dibs on the Segs. Better be stored!!!!

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 05/08/13 - 02:47 pm
0
1
Let's continue to paint

Let's continue to paint downtown and Augusta with a broad brush while the crime rate is lower compared to peer cities.

People and certain media groups love to hype up the different suburbs of Augusta. I only have one question to ask those people.

Can you name many recent opportunities except for the Recleim/Bridgestone in Aiken and Taxslayer in Evans?

I'll continue to repeat downtown is the best chance other than West Augusta to attract white collar office jobs. Let's please give the area it's fair shake in the local media coverage.

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