Five Points police presence increases
Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott has cracked down on problems associated with drinking in Five Points and other hospitality areas in his first year leading the force.
An event at 1 Justice Square Wednesday afternoon celebrated Scott’s first year at the helm. Since he took over, Scott has increased the average number of officers in Five Points on regular weekends to eight. During certain events, such as St. Patrick’s Day or nights of home football games, that number can swell to as many as 30.
Scott said he has increased focus on both the Five Points and Vista areas, but said the majority of officers are assigned to Five Points because of the high student concentration.
“When I got here, we had more than 40 positions open, so we didn’t have the manpower to put people there,” Scott said.
In Scott’s first year, the police department has added 41 officers to reach its current capacity of 400 sworn officers. It has received a grant for five more officers and two more traffic officers.
Its budget has increased more than $800,000. It also created a hospitality team that focuses its patrols on Five Points, The Vista, Harbison and North Main Street. The $370,000 force is currently composed of three police officers, a fire marshal, a zoning official and a business licensing official and has the authority to enter any business that sells alcohol. The police department has ordered new pistols and patrol cars, and it even rolled out its first SWAT command operations vehicle at Wednesday’s ceremony.
Scott said his efforts have decreased arrests while increasing the use of disciplinary programs, such as pre-trial intervention and community service. His department has also increased referrals to the Office of Student Conduct, so that USC can deal with its students internally.
“We get no benefit from sending someone to jail and [giving them] a criminal record,” Scott said.
The increased police presence in Five Points has created controversy among USC students concerning whether police are there to make them safer or to spoil a good time.
Jacob Alvarez, a first-year athletic training student, said the police have focused a lot on fake identifications.
“It stops underage drinking, but the students who do that go against it,” Alvarez said.
Kelsey Oliver, a first-year biology student, said Five Points had become too intense and less fun.
“You can’t get into places as much if you’re underage,” Oliver said. “That’s understandable but it sucks.”