First, communicate

When perspective is found, First Friday can be fixed

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Hey! Here’s an idea! Why not have a bake sale on the last Saturday to fund the security for First Friday?

That’s essentially what’s being bandied about, as local leaders suggest passing the hat to pay for an increased sheriff’s presence at the monthly event downtown, after a shooting at July’s First Friday wounded
six.

We appreciate the generosity of Mayor Deke Copenhaver and others who’ve suggested donating to the cause. But it’s not a long-term solution, and it would only help the city avoid dealing with the issues head-on.

If the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office needs more officers – and few doubt that it does – then it’s incumbent on the Augusta Commission to find the money. Period.

The sheriff’s office will take the extra help – but it’s not certain that First Friday is in need of it.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength told us Tuesday that the total number of criminal reports arising out of First Friday was 11 in the first seven months of the event this year.

From Fourth Street to 13th, from the Savannah River to Greene Street, here is the number of First Friday criminal reports – mostly thefts, trespass and simple assaults:

January: two

February: one

March: two

April: three

May: none

June: one

July: two

“First Friday can be handled – but it cannot be handled if nobody’s in charge,” Strength told us. “It is not even close to being out of control.”

The sheriff’s statistics should bring some perspective to the discussion, starting with a public meeting on First Friday at 7 p.m. today at the Augusta-Richmond County Library on Telfair.

None of this is to say nothing needs to be done. Just that we need not panic.

First, this community owes it to the sheriff’s officers to find a better way to pay them for First Friday duty. Currently, the sheriff is robbing other budgets in his department to fund the estimated $2,700 cost.

Second, we owe it to the city and to downtown merchants to set and enforce an ending time on the festival: 10 p.m. Someone needs to be designated to see to it each month.

Third, it must be absolutely clear who’s in charge of this thing. About the confusion over that, Brenda Durant, executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, wrote to us, “We do have a First Friday coordinator. Our coordinator has the phone numbers for the officers that are usually assigned to the FF beat. They have her number and call her with questions.”

But since the shooting July 6, the sheriff’s office has said it doesn’t know who’s in charge.

Fourth, the city and downtown merchants ought to work out who is responsible for what. The Chronicle keeps getting told that the city shouldn’t have to pick up the cost of security at First Friday, because it’s not an official city event. More than a decade in, maybe that should be hammered out.

It sounds to us like the violence has been overblown and that the parties involved in First Friday have done a pretty poor job of communicating.

Once we get that all figured out, the next step is to tackle the conditions that lead teens to aimlessly roam downtown streets hours after First Friday has concluded.

Will anyone step up and take a swing at that?

Comments (38) Add comment
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seenitB4
87285
Points
seenitB4 07/18/12 - 07:02 am
5
1
Not overblown

If the kids names had been Morris-Bowman-Blanchard.......don't think that would have been overblown ..doya?

If you want it PAY FOR PROTECTION.....or kiss it bye bye like the Mall that I loved so much!

Riverman1
84002
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 07:46 am
6
1
Overblown???

Someone said because most were shot in the legs, the Great First Friday Shootout shooter or shooters were not trying to kill anyone as if that should make us feel better. Those bullet holes up high in Ruebens Dept. Store's window mess up that theory. It appears bullets were flying everywhere and it was GANG warfare according to the story in the Chronicle today.

The merchants downtown, not involved with alcohol sales, do not want this event, if you can even call crowds of hostile, drunk people walking around an event. If the store owners end up having to pay some kind of fee for FF to continue it will he the height of absurdity when they are dead (hate to use that word about this event) set against it.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 07/18/12 - 07:33 am
2
0
ok...
Unpublished

Whether you are for or against FF there is one thing that is certain. If the city knows that a large gathering of people are going to be in any one spot they are obligated to provide police officers. Doesn't matter who is in charge of FF. It's happening in the city. Doesn't even matter if it's a planned event. Everyone knows there will be more people, traffic etc. etc. on the first friday of the month. I think using the money commissioners get for free gas and cell phones should solve the security money issues.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 07/18/12 - 07:52 am
4
0
I do not think of First

I do not think of First Friday as being an organized "event". I have always considered it to be more of a marketing moniker saying, "It's Friday night and the party is downtown. You are invited." This newspaper and all of the local TV newscasts have reminded us that it is First Friday. It is an open invitation and nobody is actually considered a sponsor. Most businesses would pay big bucks for such a powerul word combination. And now it is blemished because the attendees do not know how to set their own limitations. The solution is really simple. Let people know when the party is over. Call it Midnight.

Riverman1
84002
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 08:18 am
4
0
Problems Trying to Control It

Keep in mind The Great First Friday Shootout between the two gangs happened at 11:30 so the midnight curfew would not have helped. But let's say we go ahead and implement such a curfew. The bars will still stay open until 2. They want that. People have to walk to and from the bars.

So you are just going to roust people who don't look like they are bar patrons on the street after midnight? In reality what will that mean since the bar patrons on Broad St. are mostly white while those simply walking on the street are black?

jic
352
Points
jic 07/18/12 - 08:20 am
4
0
Why not just do like Deke did
Unpublished

Why not just do like Deke did for the Pride parade and make everyone sign a waver that the city "isn't responsible?" Unlike most local and state governments, providing security for citizens doesn't seem high on the list of priorities. No wonder people are worried about having their guns taken away.

Riverman1
84002
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 08:44 am
4
0
From the Other Article About the Shootout

"Augusta has become a breeding ground for national gangs," Sgt. Jason Vinson, who supervises the department’s gang investigators said.

Now what does anyone not get about the First Friday Shootout? If your daughter came to you and said she and her boyfriend were going to First Friday what would you do?

harley_52
23355
Points
harley_52 07/18/12 - 08:50 am
9
0
In The Army....

...we used to have acronyms for situations like this. We used the phonetic alphabet to come up with what we believed to be apt descriptions of the situation we were viewing. In the case of Augusta's First Friday event, the term "Charlie Foxtrot" comes to mind which may, or may not, stand for "City Fiasco."

Who's in charge? The Mayor is in charge. And if law enforcement and crowd control is the specific problem, the Sheriff is in charge as well. While some will argue that it's actually the Commission, or the Administrator, the world looks to the Mayor and the Sheriff. Attempting to lay the responsibility on some unelected strap-hanger who's been designated (by somebody) as a "coordinator" is unprofessional, cowardly, and laughable.

The Sheriff's job is to assess the law enforcement requirements he faces, prioritize them, and to organize and deploy his assets to best accomplish his mission. If that means he's got to take a few traffic cops off the streets and move them to the downtown area for a few hours, so be it. If it means he's got to take a few officers out of their offices and move them downtown, that's what he should do.

I agree the merchants need to present their suggestions to the Commission, the Mayor, and the Sheriff to allow them the opportunity to plan and organize. If they want to choose a spokesman (or a "coordinator") that's up to them. And certainly they all need to "communicate." But to attempt to blame a public safety and law enforcement issue on a "coordinator" (or lack thereof) is nothing short of ludicrous.

The violence is NOT "overblown." I'd use words like "ignored," or "denied," or "trivialized" long before I'd call it "overblown."

And we already know what's needed to "tackle the conditions that lead teens to aimlessly roam downtown streets hours after First Friday has concluded," don't we? We need parenting, we need personal responsibility, we need established rules of behavior, and firm law enforcement.

It's no mystery. It's not a question of not knowing what to do, it's much more a case of being afraid, too lazy, or unwilling, to do what we know needs to be done.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 08:59 am
8
3
Control

The editorial attributes the following quote to retiring Democrat sheriff Ronnie Strength:

“First Friday can be handled – but it cannot be handled if nobody’s in charge,” Strength told us. “It is not even close to being out of control.”

What is Strength’s hang-up about being in charge of First Friday? Oh, yes, I remember — it is an axiom of all Democrats that governments must be in charge of all aspects of life of their subjects. Governments must control us. Governments must rule us.

First Friday is some citizen vendors temporarily setting up tables on Broad Street to try and sell some home made jewelry and other craft items. It is free-speech advocates setting up tables and passing out literature. It is people walking on the sidewalks and enjoying other people's company. It is musicians playing on the sidewalks hoping to get some spare change tossed into the guitar cases. It is people walking from a bar to a restaurant in the next block; or from the restaurant to the bar for a night cap.

99.99% are law-abiding and nobody’s in control of them. Ronnie Strength does not like that. Ronnie Strength wants somebody to be in control, in charge. Democrats.

It's a good thing he's retiring. Can the Commission just ask him to go on home now and we'll send his paycheck to the house until the paycheck stops in January?

Riverman1
84002
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 09:13 am
6
0
Harley, Perfect!

Harley, I think it's our military backgrounds that make us see this in a different light. I've thought the same thing. Keep officers out late, give them comp time the next day, pull them from other areas or any dang thing. Provide security, no matter what it takes. What if we had used excuses in the war? Just get it done with what you have. Don't throw up stone walls and say Salley, the nonexistent girl who answers the phone for the merchants, is the cause of the trouble. Harley for Sheriff.

LL made some good points, too.

harley_52
23355
Points
harley_52 07/18/12 - 09:16 am
6
1
Riverman.....

....for Mayor.

harley_52
23355
Points
harley_52 07/18/12 - 09:23 am
7
0
Little Lamb....

.....for Poet Laureate. :)

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 09:32 am
5
0
Thank You, Harley

I'll be glad to serve in your administration as Poet Laureate; but remember, I must be in charge of something.

:-)

dichotomy
32975
Points
dichotomy 07/18/12 - 10:38 am
4
2
This cannot be prevented or

This cannot be prevented or controlled unless you want to cordon off the entire downtown area and run everyone through a metal detector. You folks need to get real. There is nobody to blame for this but some heathen children. This can happen at any gathering of people in RC, whether it be a FF, a movie theater, a parking lot, or the mall. This can happen anytime competing groups of ignorant young thugs happen to meet at a public place. The sheriff cannot prevent it, the mayor cannot prevent it, the merchants cannot prevent it, and the "coordinator" certainly cannot prevent it. So don't kid yourself folks. If you go any "event" in RC, "you rolls the dice and you takes your chances".

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/18/12 - 12:08 pm
3
0
Harley_52

It has been a long, long time since I was in the military but I recognize your military interpretation well. It works very time.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/18/12 - 12:15 pm
2
1
dichotomy

This is the first time that I can remember that I have disagreed with you. Everything can be controlled. Ask the Japanese and the Germans.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/18/12 - 12:27 pm
3
0
Chief Reuben Greenberg

Those that know him remember he was the Chief of Police in Charleston some years ago. He was hired to clean up the city which no one else had been able to do. He used some unique methods such as hiring young cops and putting them in sneakers so that they could run down the bad guys. He stationed cops near drug sellers and they were followed every where they went. As a result they left town. In less then two years he cleaned up Charleston. Then New Orleans rented him from Charleston where he got the same results. He then wrote a book. Maybe our sheriff should read it.

Riverman1
84002
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 12:41 pm
4
0
Chief Greenberg, a black man,

Chief Greenberg, a black man, roller bladed through the tough neighborhoods of Charleston every day. Everyone knew him and talked with him. Someone told me he now has senile dementia. What a shame. He was the label for community policing.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/18/12 - 01:00 pm
2
0
What a shame

Sometimes, I wonder why life can be so unfair to some. Here is a man who made a real contribution to his community and he ends up in LaLa land. So sad. I had not heard this . I lost track of him a few years ago.

playlikethunder
88
Points
playlikethunder 07/18/12 - 01:00 pm
5
0
Try Aiken, SC
Unpublished

I have had the pleasure of playing music over in Aiken on the weekends , mostly in the Hotel Aiken. During breaks I get out and walk the streets and there are people of all economic levels,races, ethnicities ,and all looking to enjoy a few moments of the good life.Good food,music,friends,etc.The one thing I did not see was roving gangs (and wannabees)of blacks touting each other ,causing traffic jams,wandering the middle of the streets and generally causing consternation for all. The powers to be do not put up with it.The crowd is well dressed, working people who take some pride in the city, the opportunity and themselves.
I ,in order to be honest, did witness one fight that lasted about 10 seconds ...four Aiken cop cars were there in a flash and it was like hitting a campfire with a garden hose, it was over before it started.
Downtown Augusta has a damn long way to go to accomplish this.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 01:04 pm
5
0
Simple

The solution is so simple, and it has been staring us in the face for days: The mayor calls a press conference and announces a person who is officially in charge of First Friday. I would suggest Lara Plocha, who is well known and has experience in community organizing. To avoid miscommunication, the mayor should also send a letter by registered mail so he knows that the sheriff knows who is in charge. Nothing about the event would have to change at all. The merchants would not be soaked with any additional extortion payments to the sheriff for security. People could come and go as they please. The street vendors can set up and take down whenever they want. Citizens can walk on the sidewalks and have fun. Eventually (it could be six months or it could be six years) there will be a scuffle down there, and one day there will be a little gunfire. That's when Ms. Plocha becomes invaluable. The sheriff would have a scapegoat. He can go on TV and say that Ms. Plocha did not execute her responsibilities properly. The sheriff could fume and fuss, and then go back to business as usual.

Riverman1
84002
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 01:30 pm
1
0
Carleton, Greenberg's wife is

Carleton, Greenberg's wife is a teacher at Stall High School in North Charleston. The Chief had a few problems before being dianosed with an organic brain disease according to a friend of mine who is friends with his wife. Let's wish him well.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/18/12 - 01:40 pm
2
0
By all means, Riverman

He is my hero. I have a friend, Marvin Greenberg, who lives in Rhode Island. Marvin was visiting back in the late eighties. We went to Charleston and called on the chief and because they had the same last name the Chief gave us a lot of time. What a guy. He had the simplest means for dealing with criminals. It seems that his Jewish grandfather married a black woman . Reuben never practiced the Jewish religion. He was , in fact, a Christian . Interesting family story.

allhans
23651
Points
allhans 07/18/12 - 02:05 pm
1
0
Carleton..Had this been in

Carleton..Had this been in Richmond County the thugs would have been back on the streets in a few day, and he would have to start all over.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 02:29 pm
2
1
What?

What does ACES mean by this?

Second, we owe it to the city and to downtown merchants to set and enforce an ending time on the festival: 10 p.m. Someone needs to be designated to see to it each month.

Are they saying that downtown merchants must close up at 10 p.m. on First Fridays? That will go over well with the bar owners. Everybody will be clawing for a variance or exemption from that rule, if it were to be implemented.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 07/18/12 - 04:01 pm
0
4
If somebody wants to visit

If somebody wants to visit downtown Aiken because it's 'whiter' on average then go ahead... All you have to do is look at the low crime stats in the CBD... I've been saying this for a long time, but the usual suspects tell me I'm wearing rose colored glasses.. Even though I happen to live downtown, and they usually live in another county, or not even in metro Augusta at all... They can't spin the words coming from the sheriff, or the crime stats he'll present later on today to the public...

There's really no comparison in terms of events between downtown Augusta and Aiken...The events in Aiken are much smaller, and attract the general local population.. Augusta is the 'main city', and needs to have events geared towards all types of people..

The US Cycling Championships held in June of this year had people from all over the US in downtown Augusta... The Ironman, Southern Nationals, Gay Parade & Festival, Arts in the Heart, Westobou, etc attract people outside of the CSRA.. Even the local events( Hispanic festival, Greek festival, Market on the River, Candlelight Jazz) will have people from the surrouding counties attend.. The thousands of people who attended the July 4th celebration came from Richmond, Aiken, Columbia, Burke, Edgefield, Mcduffie, etc...

I've never been to one First Friday(whether during the official time or after) were you didn't have from tags from every part of the CSRA, and even several other counties in Georgia...

harley_52
23355
Points
harley_52 07/18/12 - 04:12 pm
3
0
Hand Wringing....

.....never accomplishes much..

"The sheriff cannot prevent it, the mayor cannot prevent it, the merchants cannot prevent it, and the "coordinator" certainly cannot prevent it. So don't kid yourself folks. If you go any "event" in RC, "you rolls the dice and you takes your chances"."

Throwing in the towel and proclaiming the punks and thugs can't be stopped can only be described as hand wringing.

We might as well open the prison doors and lock ourselves in the basement. The inmates rule the asylum.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/18/12 - 04:40 pm
3
0
The solutions are obvious,

...but unthinkable. In the last few days we've had gunmen in Alabama, Canada and yes, Augusta, open fire on crowds of people. On the other hand, when two armed punks hit an internet cafe in Florida, a senior citizen, refusing to be a victim and defending his wife opened fire on THEM.

Scores: Alabama: 17 wounded victims, no injured perps, Canada: 6 wounded victims, 1 dead, no injured perps; Augusta: 6 wounded victims, no injured perps; Florida (state with both 'stand your ground' and unlimited concealed carry laws): victims: ZERO, wounded perps, 2. When arrested, the perps complained the mean old man (71) shoulda stopped shooting when they ran. : (

bdouglas
5032
Points
bdouglas 07/18/12 - 05:15 pm
4
0
Yes, by all means visit Aiken...

Yes, by all means visit Aiken. Where it is likely that you will NOT be solicited by homeless citizens, eyed by less-than-savory characters, propositioned by ladies (or dude looks like a lady) of the night, harrassed by roving groups of foul-mouthed teens with no respect for themselves or others or face any other number of uncomfortable situations. But you won't find those things reported in the statistics that the good Sheriff will report or that are reposted ad nauseum by certain CBD fans on here. It *is* a problem that needs to be addressed, no matter what the official statistics say. A proactive and not reactive police force is the answer. A heaping helping of better morals and child rearing is a good start, too. Pretending there is no problem and holding press conferences to announce it are not the answer. Demanding to know who is in charge is not how you address these issues. The only purpose that serves is giving people someone to blame, when it was never their problem to begin with.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 07/18/12 - 06:11 pm
0
0
so what i'm getting here is

so what i'm getting here is Augusta should find the middle ground. We aren't ATL or Aiken. There shouldn't be this dark shadow over downtown regarding crime but we can't manage it like a small fringe city either. Statistically, we're fine. But that's irrelevant if we just walk around guarded all the time. Accept that there's going to be bumps in the road toward harmony.

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