Last night, our community narrowly avoided another tragedy in Five Points. The facts that the gunshots fired did not cause serious injury, and that no USC students were involved, do not make the consequences any less real to our campus or to our neighbors.
As I did last fall, I'm calling for action--working together the city, county, merchants, neighborhoods and university must take back Five Points before crime becomes the unacceptable norm.
Now is the time to implement effective change for a safer Five Points. What more will it take to pick up the pace of action?
For our part, USC has reinstituted shuttles to and from Five Points in an effort to get our students out of the area before the early morning hours. This helps to be sure, but the effectiveness of shuttles and taxis is impaired by snarled traffic, cruising vehicles and curbsides occupied by parked cars that obstruct the free flow of pedestrians and impeded sight lines.
Also, we are changing student behaviors by spreading the message of "Stand Up Carolina," to take care of yourself and each other. We educate students and provide safety tips encouraging them to walk in groups, stay in well-lit areas and when at all possible take transportation.
We've increased the number of sworn officers on our staff and picked up patrols in the areas bordering our campus and continue to assist when needed by CPD. But we can't patrol Five Points. That can't be the job of USC law enforcement.
We have been working closely with the city and Five Points Association to identify root causes and rogue establishments--and take action to address those issues.
Now, we must continue to make progress:
· The Columbia Police Department and Richland County Sheriff's Department must commit the resources necessary to increase policing in Five Points Thursday through Saturday nights;
· Columbia City Council should take action to close establishments at 2 a.m. and regulatory agencies should take greater action to ensure all alcohol laws and regulations are being adhered to and enforced; establishments that repeatedly violate ordinances should have their license revoked.
· Five Points must be more pedestrian friendly and we should consider a transportation and parking solution that would support pedestrian-only access during designated hours.
· And, we must continue to evaluate and enhance lighting, cameras and other security infrastructure.
Combating violence is a community problem that requires a community solution. As friends and neighbors, let's pick up the pace to ensure that Five Points is safe for everyone.