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September 27, 2012

Columbia mayor will discuss recent violence in Five Points at news conference

Columbia police officials are expected to outline other measures they will take to improve safety in Five Points.

Mayor Steve Benjamin will hold a news conference today to talk about last weekend’s shooting and fights in Five Points, as debate continues to swirl over the best way to control late-night crowds and crime in one of the city’s most popular entertainment districts.

Meanwhile, Columbia police officials are expected Tuesday to present a plan to address crime in Five Points to City Council during its regularly-scheduled work session.

This weekend, police chief Randy Scott said 15 to 20 officers will be on patrol in Five Points during the busiest times. Five Points crowds surge during home football games, but this weekend USC’s team travels to Lexington, Ky.

“We’re going to have extra officers because of last weekend,” he said.

But Scott said those extra officers would not be assigned to Five Points at the expense of other areas of the city.

“We have a whole city to protect,” he said. “I’m not willing to reduce protection in other areas.”

Upset by continuing violence in Five Points, city leaders are planning to nearly double the police presence during USC’s next home football game Oct. 6 against Georgia. Longer-range crackdowns could include police dogs, street closings, and tougher loitering measures.

Calls for tougher action are being driven by last weekend’s particularly violent outbreak which included a random firing of a gun and two mob fights. No arrests have been announced in those incidents.

Scott met Wednesday with the Five Points Association’s board of directors as part of the ongoing discussion on how to address crime that flares up in the area. Scott said his attendance at the association’s board meeting would not replace a larger public meeting that is in the works. No date has been announced for that meeting.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page called “Fight Back for Five Points” has more than 5,000 fans. The site, created by two Columbia women, has dozens of postings from people who are sharing ideas and urging people to call politicians with their concerns. And, a petition asking Benjamin to address the problem has been posted on change.org, a website that allows people to unify their support around a common cause.

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