Five Points Association: Columbia gangs are district’s major problem

monk@thestate.comNovember 4, 2013 

— Three inner city gangs – the Bloods, the Crips and the Folk Nation – are Five Points’ major problem, the leader of the Five Points Association said Monday.

“For us, the priority has to be, fixing the gang issue,” Five Points Association president Tim Smith told the Columbia Rotary Club Monday

Smith, owner of Papa Jazz, said he was thankful city police are increasing a serious visible law enforcement presence in Five Points, which is home to more than 50 bars and restaurants that attract numerous nighttime visitors, many of them college students.

“During the day, I would say Five Points is probably the safest it’s been in the 30-odd years I’ve been in Five Points,” Smith said.

And recently interim Columbia police Chief Ruben Santiago has beefed up night time patrols with a half-dozen permanent beat officers in the popular nighttime area just east of the University of South Carolina main campus.

In his talk, followed by a question and answer session, Smith said his association opposes:

•  Making Five Points a pedestrian area. That’s because it would force Five Points nighttime visitors to walk to their cars on neighborhood streets five or six blocks away. That late-night walk would make those pedestrians “easier prey” for criminals who would lie in wait for them, Smith said.

• Closing Five Points bars at 2 a.m. Saturday night. That’s the “most dangerous time to be in Five Points because you basically have thousands of people on the streets at the same time,”

And when there are numerous people on Five Points’ streets, Smith said, “it’s sort of camouflage for gangs.”

Smith said his association has been heartened to see signs of increased cooperation in law enforcement presence between city police, USC police, Richland County Sheriff’s Department and SLED.

But, he said, more needs to be done.

In recent years, Five Points has been increasingly the scene of shootings and other violent incidents at night. Many victims are young people, including the latest, Martha Childress, a USC freshman who was paralyzed by an errant bullet fired by young man with a criminal record. The suspect is now in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center awaiting trial.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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