Augusta's black eye

City must push ideas that create a safer downtown

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It was a horrific crime.

And make no mistake. A lot of people are horrified.

If it’s any consolation to the couple who were attacked, robbed and brutally injured with a metal object late Friday on Augusta’s Riverwalk, your plight has not gone unnoticed. Augusta is praying for your full recovery.

Both of them received several facial fractures and head wounds, he a fractured skull and broken hand as well, when two unsatisfied muggers took a metal baseball bat or club to their heads.

The truth is, Augusta’s image and confidence were also fractured in the incident.

You can say what you want about it being an isolated incident late at night. Frequency doesn’t matter a whit, when someone is savagely attacked thusly. Residents and, in this case, guests from across the river have every right to expect to be safe at Augusta’s biggest tourist attraction.

If all bets are off at night, and the Riverwalk simply becomes unsafe at 11 p.m., then close it and post signs to that effect.

Then, after posting the signs, walk away in shame.

This shocking crime will only confirm many people’s dim view of downtown Augusta – even as a video of an earlier wild brawl on Broad Street makes the rounds on the Internet.

The Chronicle interviewed business people and visitors near the river Monday. All said that caution must be taken there at night, and that there was very little police presence on the Riverwalk.

“It’s nice during the day, but I wouldn’t go down there at night,” one restaurant owner said. “It’s not well-lit. It’s not patrolled by police that I’ve ever seen.”

One Riverwalk visitor told our reporters that she’d lived in Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York – but that two of the three times she’s been robbed have been in downtown Augusta.

Can you say “wake-up call”?

If city leaders, both public and private, don’t want that image to stick or be reinforced – or if they just want Friday’s attack not to happen again – then they will stir to action.

Indeed, the Downtown Development Authority was to meet with sheriff’s officials today.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office needs to put at least as much high-profile effort into curbing violent crime as they have traffic infractions of late.

But this goes way beyond the law enforcement community. Any crime diminishes a community, but one so repugnant and frightful as this makes it more difficult for the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the school system, the mayor’s office and more. Shouldn’t they all collaborate on a response?

It’s not enough to wring our hands and shake our heads over this depravity. This cries out for action.

One friend mentioned to us that vibrant downtowns in South Carolina’s Greenville and Charleston – while they certainly host the occasional criminal act – don’t seem to have a reputation for being unsafe. Quite the opposite. Why is that? How have they managed that? Curfews? Crackdowns? What can we learn from them? And what’s so different in Augusta, that it does feel different?

Is it merely a matter of lighting? Lack of security personnel? Lack of crowds? Lack of businesses?

It’s time for some honest, and maybe painful, self-examination.

This is not about blaming anyone other than the perpetrators, who ought to spend the bulk of the rest of their lives in prison when apprehended. It’s about creating the conditions for safety.

And hoping that the perception of safety follows.

Comments (17) Add comment
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chipster48 05/07/13 - 10:47 pm

last year saw the deterioration of first friday with the disturbances provoked by minority groups. The latest provocations were also minority related. Why cant the minority leaders of this community see the "elephant in the kitchen"? Is it because the "minority" is now the majority? I hope and pray leadership from within will prevail to preserve our city......

fedex227 05/07/13 - 10:56 pm

won't be visiting anytime soon. Why take the risk?

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 05/08/13 - 06:10 am
Good article...

ACTION not words this time.

LuvMyTown 05/08/13 - 06:21 am
Since CADI program shut down, more trash, more crime

And more trouble downtown. City sent the message "we don't care".

GuyGene 05/08/13 - 08:07 am
Yep, these kinds of

Yep, these kinds of incidences will make me keep away from downtown. Me and my $.

mooseye 05/08/13 - 08:34 am
Fact is

that downtown August Georgia has not been safe after dark or in the daytime since the major business exodus in the '60's.
A good friend of mine was sitting at a red light and a person came up to his window asking something and as soon as this person was near enough, reached in and grabbed my friends gold necklace and snatched it and ran. My friend debated for an instant weather to give chase and decided he better not leave his car for fear it too would be snatched or worse yet, he would be running into a trap. And this was at 2:15pm.

chascushman 05/08/13 - 08:35 am
This is what happens when

This is what happens when democrats run a city for very long. Augusta is getting what you deserve.

curly123053 05/08/13 - 08:46 am
Shame on Augusta Ga

You won't be seeing me downtown anymore anytime soon. If the city and sheriff are not proactive enough to stomp this uncivilized jungle behavior in the bud I see downtown Augusta becoming like Regency Mall! The good law abiding folks will take their money elsewhere and leave downtown to the thugs.
One difference I have noticed in popular tourist districts in cities like Greenville, Charleston, and yes, even Atlanta is lighting. The more lighting there is the less trouble you will see. Why?? Because thugs would rather do their evil deeds under cover of darkness. While every city has their sides of town to be wary of the CBD's are normally well lit up and especially around the main tourist attractions.
I spent 8 months in Houston recently as my brother battled cancer. Houston is America's 4th largest city. Yes, they have their fair share of crime like any other city, but their downtown city center is flooded in lights in the evening. Their main tourist areas are the same way and you rarely hear of attacks like the one that occurred on the Riverwalk in Augusta. One of the cheapest deterrants to hoodlaism antics is to saturate certain areas in light and I don't mean the simple street lights which do not radiate light like the lights I see in other areas. It's time to quit talking and do something.

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 05/08/13 - 08:42 am
LuvMyTown... nice try..

Not one red cent of the extra taxes charged under the BID went to safety and security despite that being the main promise made to property owners when they signed off on the voluntary tax increase.

Nice try, but fact are stubborn things.

RMSHEFF 05/08/13 - 08:51 am
I witnessed first hand what

I witnessed first hand what happens if this is not dealt with quickly. I had 2 businesses in the old Regency Mall and we did very well for the first 3 years or so. When the crime came to the mall, customers left and you can see the results when you drive by the old mall today. It seem the same is happening at Augusta mall. I don't go to the mall on Saturday nights. Who wants to put their family in the middle of potential violence.

MTBer 05/08/13 - 09:29 am
Perpetrators not caught?

I have yet to see one person ask the most basic question: Why have the thugs that committed this act not been caught? Why has the local community not turned them in? It is a sad day when a community does not want the vermin out of their midst.

I like chipster48's comment. There's an elephant in the room but we are too scared or "politically correct" to call the issue to the front. Look up the crimes in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, etc and they have that same elephant in common. Sometimes the truth just needs to be admitted.

Riverman1 05/08/13 - 10:39 am
Marriott Should Arm Riverwalk Officers with Shotguns

The editorial points out how we all feel. We have to protect our main areas for visitors. That's the Riverwalk and Broad St. I suggest as a practical measure the Marriott hire two officers (or Reserve Officers) to patrol the Riverwalk area. Downtown businesses can also hire a couple of officers for patrolling Broad St. on foot. The officers should be armed with shotguns for a more effective presence.

DawgnSC69 05/08/13 - 11:19 am
Safety will take care of itself

Safety and the reputation of Augusta and our nation for that matter will take care of itself if parents would get a job, start taking care of their family, and holding their children to a higher standard and hold them accountable for their actions. The things that are happening in this county are animalistic to say the least. And yes, I’ll step up and say it’s mostly the black community. Deny it and sugar coat it all you want. The sooner society accepts that reality the better. It’s only going to change when parents start being responsible adults by teaching their kids right from wrong and guiding them toward a positive and productive life. If not, things will get worst.

countyman 05/08/13 - 01:56 pm
Let's make sure the local

Let's make sure the local media is held responsible. They don't report 90% of the crime outside of Richmond County, but they report 90% of the positive stories outside the county. Whether it's new businesses opening or some other type of achievement.

They only time the media focuses on downtown is when a major crime happens.

The crime rate of Augusta is low compared to our neighbors, but from the media reports you would never know.

Curly123053. The crime rate of Augusta is lower than Charleston, Greenville, and Atlanta. I do agree with you in term of more lighting downtown though. You rarely hear of attacks in Augusta in the tourist areas like the Riverwalk.

The last homicide in downtown Augusta was in 2010, and the last shooting in July of 2012.

Charleston, Greenville, and downtown Atlanta have all had murders and shootings. Robberies have in every downtown, but Augusta is far behind these cities recently in major crime downtown.

Patty-P 05/08/13 - 09:48 pm
What's the point of opening

What's the point of opening new businesses if people don't feel safe patronizing them? The city needs to work on crime first, then add businesses.

oldfella 05/08/13 - 10:33 pm
Countryman you are incorrect

Not buying your point about crime outside of Richmond County not being reported. Every swinging Richard arrested and booked in the CSRA gets put in The Jail Report. You want unbiased facts? Purchase The Jail Report. Trust me, my own family members and many of their friends/peers have been in there too. Granted, most crimes committed by Columbia County residents are non-violent and most crimes committed by Richmond County residents in Columbia County are violent (fact, not opinion) but regardless: you commit a crime of any type in Columbia County you will be arrested, count on it.

Darby 05/08/13 - 11:21 pm
"Nice try, but fact(s) are stubborn things."

Nice try, Brad but haven't you noticed that on these boards and elsewhere, everyone is apparently entitled to his own facts.

Young Fred
Young Fred 05/08/13 - 11:49 pm
I think many are starting to

I think many are starting to realize the full meaning of "urban jungle".

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