The Daily Gamecock

Project to add more call boxes near Five Points

Student Government aims to deter violent crimes


A developing Student Government initiative hopes to put police eyes on three highly-traveled pathways to the Five Points area by Christmas, pending finances, according to Ryan Bailey, Senate safety and transportation committee chairman.

The Safety Pathway to Five Points project proposes the installation of five to six police call boxes with cameras on Blossom, College and Greene Streets — the three main routes for students walking to Five Points from campus, according to Bailey.

“Walking to Five Points now is a little rough. With us being so close in the vicinity of Five Points, it’s difficult to get there without a fear of being mugged,” Bailey said. “We really think this pathway can help the Columbia police and the USC police keep an eye on things that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

In the works since last spring, the Safety Pathway project is currently in the early stages of seeking and securing funding. Each box is expected to cost around $5,500, Bailey said, and the Safety and Transportation committee is looking for around $25,000 to $30,000 total to pay for the boxes and their installation.

No funding for the project will come from the Student Government or university budgets. The committee is in the process of seeking outside financial commitments from possible sources that include the Residence Hall Association, USC police, the Five Points Association and the City of Columbia, Bailey said.

The potential locations for the new call boxes would, ideally, allow for camera coverage of areas that are blind spots for cameras on current boxes, Bailey said. The plan specifically targets Blossom Street between the Pickens Street and Saluda Avenue intersections and the College Street area between Laurens and Harden Streets, according to Bailey.

Currently, there are two call boxes with cameras on Blossom Street and no call boxes or cameras on College Street near Five Points.

Bailey said the goal of the project is to allow students to walk safe routes from campus to Five Points and take the Carolina Cab back to campus, eliminating the risks of drunk driving or leaving an unattended car downtown overnight.

“You shouldn’t go somewhere if you’re in fear of getting hurt or getting mugged or something of that nature,” Bailey said. “Hopefully these call boxes will be a deterrent. And if there are violent crimes, it’ll make it substantially easier to solve.”

Bailey said the knowledge of police presence projected by the call boxes should deter potential criminals. However, Capt. Eric Grabski, a spokesman for the USC Division of Law Enforcement and Safety, warned students and community members not to be lulled into a false sense of safety.

“They may be a deterrent, but you can never be too comfortable,” Grabski said. “Just because a call box is there doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to prevent a crime from happening ... Crime is an opportunity thing.”

Grabski said students should drive or take a cab at night, if possible, and travel in groups on well-lit pathways. He encouraged students to “use good sense and caution” and to “take personal responsibility for safety.”

Both Bailey and Grabski noted the helpful role of cameras on call boxes in leading to an understanding of a crime and the eventual capture of suspects.

“What we want for the students is ... to have this tool that they hopefully don’t have to use, but something that, if they get mugged, they know the guy’s going to get caught,” Bailey said.

The Safety and Transportation committee has been in touch with Columbia’s Statewide Security Systems (SSS) to discuss potential installation plans for the call boxes.

In addition to one USC call box in Five Points, SSS currently provides cameras and three police call boxes in the Five Points neighborhood, according to Grabski. The Five Points Association has spent over $100,000 in the last three years installing security cameras, according to Executive Director Merritt McHaffie.

Bailey said he was told by SSS to expect the call boxes to be installed and operating within two weeks of securing funding. Funding, however, is still the question. Bailey said the committee is not having trouble finding money, “it’s just time.”