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Downtown Columbia Leadership Council gives downtown safety update


The Downtown Columbia Leadership Council met Wednesday evening to give a downtown safety update.

The safety update was one of two items on the agenda and included information from both Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones and CID Executive Director Nickie Davis.

Topics that were discussed at the meeting included: updating street lighting, possible update to cameras, possible safety training for bars and restaurants, updating unsheltered and panhandler outreach programs, and communication with CPD.

Chief Jones reflected on many crimes that happened in the Downtown area last summer and fall. He says three out of the four major incidents had police on the scene close by.

"I think it's important that people recognize that they are safe and the shooting have been targeted from one individual to another, even if someone else did get shot, it's not random acts of violence downtown," Jones said.

Chief Jones says the department and community should take each incident case by case and thoughtful in their approach.

"Look at the environment and see if we could just make the environment more suitable for activities that don't involve violent crime," Jones said.

Jones said one issue is underage drinking in the area and he hopes to work with businesses to minimize this issue.

"It puts potential witnesses and victims in a position not to report things that they see because they don't feel comfortable doing that. I can tell you we don't arrest people because they've been drinking especially if they're a witness or a victim of a crime so I would encourage people to talk to us if that's the case," Jones added.

Davis added to the discussion that they are working to get grants for more cameras inside and outside of businesses downtown, plus funding for standardized training for all nighttime businesses.

Jones says training is important and the more standardized it is, the more important even if it's only for community expectations. "So we know what to expect from security, so our security is trained to know what to expect from the police, to know what to expect from the businesses," Jones said.

Davis also touched on the addition of "daylight" style lights in the area, because of complications the process has been pushed back.

"We're still probably about eight months out, it's materials now before it was labor and now it's materials. It's been paid for, we're ready for it, all of the locations have been marked, it's just the getting those materials in," Davis said.

One member of the council, Tom Mendenhall owner of The Lofts downtown, the community can do their part to help the crime in the area, but he said it's bigger than that.

"Some of these people have been arrested ten times some of them as many as 20 and I think that's part of the problem with some of these groups that are downtown that we should take a hard look at the judicial system that's turning these people loose," said one council member.

Jones emphasizes that this is not a problem that you can police your way out of.

"When you look at all of the factors that impact violent crime, you can't get pigeonholed into thinking that if you fix one that you've made significant progress without addressing those other things. You have to get all of these other parts working together," Jones said.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.


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