The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: Leaders must pinpoint Five Points' true problem

Everyone agrees: Five Points is a problem area for Columbia.
But until everyone agrees on exactly what that problem is, it won’t be fixed.

The shooting that left our fellow Gamecock, 18-year-old Martha Childress, paralyzed from the waist down is another on a long list of tragedies that could have been avoided if everyone with an opinion on the bar district’s woes did have “a 100 percent accurate idea of what’s going on.”

We think it’s obvious: The two major factors in Five Points crime are gang violence and what truly is a “revolving door” judicial system.

Those problems aren’t going to be fixed with 2 a.m. bar closings or by making the area pedestrian-only on weekends. Closing bars all at the same time will force patrons out onto the street all at once, making them sitting ducks and encouraging drunk driving to other areas with bars that are open later. Blocking traffic into Five Points will mean responsible bargoers will have to walk outside of that area to hail a cab or get to parked cars, keeping them on the streets longer and making them more vulnerable.

But stopping convicted criminals from walking right back onto the street by strengthening minimums and denying bond to repeat offenders can stop them from hurting people like Martha and Kelly Hunnewell, a mother of four who was murdered by a convicted violent offender in July. A stricter and more easily enforced loitering ordinance could also discourage people who are just looking for trouble from coming to the area.

Important leaders in our community must start communicating and pushing for real reforms now, before even one more student is hurt or killed in a place they should be safe.