In our opinion: Five Points crime conversation must be ongoing
After months of relative calm, Five Points is back in the news again for all the wrong reasons. A man was shot in the popular hospitality district just past midnight Saturday. Members of the Columbia community, including USC, are left with a question: How can we solve the issue of violent crime in a neighborhood so popular with students?
President Harris Pastides put forth his own suggestions less than a day after the shooting incident. He called for a 2 a.m. curfew for bars and restaurants, an increased commitment of resources from city and county law enforcement, designated “pedestrian-only” hours and increased lighting and security infrastructure — all things he called for after the shooting of first-year business student Martha Childress in October.
We must take issue with Pastides’ call for a 2 a.m. curfew. Saturday’s shooting occurred around 12:30 a.m., a time when Five Points is still healthily populated. A study by The State determined that the bulk of violent crime in Five Points occurs on Sundays past 2 a.m., when all bars close and force patrons into the streets. They become fish in a barrel, just waiting for a stray bullet to strike or an altercation to ensue.
But the rest of Pastides’ proposals are ones we can stand behind, especially that of allocating the proper law enforcement resources to the neighborhood. While police are very visible on the 600 and 700 blocks of Harden Street, their presence noticeably drops off the farther one ventures from the Five Points Fountain. Officers should increase the breadth of their foot patrol to reach up and down Harden Street towards Waffle House and Cook-Out, where many end their nights and closer to where Saturday’s shooting took place. The victim was shot outside of Rite Aid, which is not open late at night; police need to be visible on more than two blocks of Five Points’ most trafficked road.
But the most important thing to take away from this incident is that the powers that be must constantly work towards making Five Points a safer place, not just when an incident of this caliber occurs. Very little has been said or done by Student Government or the university’s board of trustees since the dialogue spurred by Childress’ shooting has petered out.
Until violent crime has been virtually eradicated from Five Points, the conversation must go on. We must be constantly engaged in the sharing of ideas not just within the confines of USC, but throughout Columbia and Richland County. Without collaboration on every level, from student senate to city council, we will not solve this pressing issue.