Columbia bar management, police talk about changes to make downtown feel safer
Bar management says meeting was positive, but there are still concerns
Police and downtown bar management met Tuesday to talk about concerns they have about patrol downtown and changes both would like to see.
Police said they are now fully staffed as of June 9, which was five days before the shooting in Columbia last Friday night, when three people were shot.
Police said a full staff means they can make some changes on patrolling downtown.
They said some of those changes include increasing foot and bike patrols, as well as assigning specific sergeants to each establishment as a point of contact if there are issues.
"I saw that there was a decrease in utilizing the bikes and foot patrol, and so we are actively out doing more foot patrol and doing more bike patrols," said Sgt. Candy Cornman, with the Columbia Police Department.
One bar owner told ABC 17 News he felt like there has been less police presence downtown over the last few months and that he thought the downtown unit had disappeared.
But police said it has been there, but that it hasn't been at the numbers that it should be.
"A lot of people think that the downtown unit went away, and it didn't go away, its just changed and through attrition we have new members and sometime we're below staff," Cornman said.
While bar owners said they are happy to hear about these changes, they also said they still have concerns that the now fully staffed unit is not enough.
"In general, it's just kind of the lack of personnel that's really sort of the concern, at least from our perspective," said Spencer Pearson, manager of The Blue Fugue.
Since December, there have been four members in the seven-person unit downtown, according to Cornman.
She said now that they are fully staffed, they will have four officers patrolling downtown at night and two during the day.
"It sounded like they could use more police downtown than what's available to them right now," said Justin Conrad, owner of Nash Vegas.
While there are still these concerns, all of the bar owners told ABC 17 News they feel better after the meeting and believe they are on the right track.
"It was a good step in the right direction, you know, they addressed all of our concerns," Pearson said.
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