I wrote the following letter to the editor July 13, 2008. I did not send it to The Augusta Chronicle because I decided to mention the idea to officials and in meetings instead. When I did so, I was largely ignored, was told that downtown is safe and was even snickered at during one meeting. So I let it go, in hopes that someone would have a better idea.
I wish I would have sent that letter.
It is four years late, but I am sending it now in hopes that it will be used before more robberies, injuries and deaths leave lives torn and our dreams of a busy vibrant downtown in shambles.
Here is what I wrote. I did not change a word. It is as I wrote it four years ago:
FOR MANY YEARS, I have been reading articles about what is needed to help our downtown area fulfill its huge potential. The projects that have been mentioned are far too many to name, but the prices range from a few million to hundreds of millions.
While some of these projects may be great ideas, I believe that we are missing the main item that will be needed to make any of the projects work. The item that I am talking about is safety. For people to want to shop, visit or live downtown, they must feel safe.
I am in no way saying that downtown is not safe now. It is as safe as most other places in the CSRA. But it is a fact that many people do not feel safe downtown. Since perception is everything, unless we do things to give them a safe feeling, we can build, but they will not come.
My suggestion is a camera system downtown. Since video technology has advanced tremendously and the prices have dropped, it is a very viable option when compared to hiring enough police officers to patrol the downtown area.
One officer could monitor the whole downtown area and send a patrol car out if trouble is spotted. The officer also will have an idea of what to expect upon arrival. And if a crime does occur, we will have a much better chance of catching the criminal.
If our area was to install a camera system, we would be able to advertise that we are one of the safest downtowns in the area. And along with the safety features, we could show our First Friday live on the Internet. That would get others excited about going downtown. Make people feel safe and secure and then and only then, will they come.
I WOULD LIKE to add one footnote to the four-year-old letter. We can also make it known that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office will be monitoring the cameras 24 hours a day. Along with criminal activity, they will be looking for anyone who is wanted by
the sheriff’s office for any reason. That may deter criminal activity also. Criminals do not like cameras.
I have always loved the downtown area, and in my heart, I believe that if people feel safe, they will come and it will grow. Then and only then will the other projects work.
Those were my words in 2008 and those are my words now. Please get involved and let’s make this happen.
(The writer operates an Augusta auto-repair business.)