COLUMBIA, SC — Columbia enjoys a party, but the good times are giving the police department a hangover.
“Some people will say, ‘I’m glad it’s Friday,’ but at the police department that’s when the work really starts,” Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said.
Scott recommended Tuesday that the city raise fees for special event permits and off-duty officers who work those events. The increases would help cover expenses such as gasoline and time spent planning and organizing.
Scott made his recommendations to City Council’s public safety committee, which agreed to consider the increases. If approved, the special event permit fee would increase to $25 from $5. And the charge for off-duty police officers used as security would rise to $40 per hour from $35.
The city hosted 425 special events in 2011-2012, up from 327 events in 2010-2011. Those events include everything from the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Five Points to the Governor’s Cup road race to community picnics in public parks.
There have been weekends where as many as 28 special events were happening, Scott said.
Oct. 6 was one of those busy weekends, when 268 of the department’s 406 officers worked special security details, Scott said. Events included the First Ladies’ Walk for Life and 5K race, a Benedict College football game as well as recurring security requests at bars, malls and other businesses.
That weekend’s security detail included 87 officers and three civilian employees who worked in Five Points to handle crowds celebrating the USC victory over the University of Georgia. Five Points alone cost the department $12,198 in overtime, gas and other expenses, Scott said.
The higher permit fee would help cover the cost of planning for events such as mapping street closings, coordinating with the fire department and putting bags on parking meters, Scott said.
“It’s not just simply putting a cop and a barricade on the streets,” he said.
As for the hourly fee for off-duty police, Scott said the extra $5 would cover the cost of cars and other city equipment used by officers working security at events. Already, the city collects the $35 fee and then pays it to officers, and that would not change, he said.
City officials also want to require event sponsors to provide written notice to neighborhood and business associations prior to receiving approval for a permit. That comes after city police and residents were caught off guard by a recent Sunday morning charity walk through neighborhoods surrounding USC that unexpectedly closed streets.
Assistant city manager Allison Baker said other law enforcement agencies worked the event but the city was not notified.
“It would be a courtesy to call Randy and say, ‘We’re going to do A, B, C and D,’” Baker said.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.