Columbia city officials, police, bar and business owners meet after downtown shootings

Some people say more police are needed.

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The City of Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said large crowds, alcohol, drugs and the heat have played into the recent downtown shootings.

"A number of open and notorious drug dealing that is occurring," Treece said. "There is another element that just want to come down and see a spectacle."

Business owners who attended the meeting discussed sharing surveillance camera footage with police when crimes occur. Treece said this will help convict the people causing the violence.

Zachary Rugen has managed nightclub security in Columbia for more than ten years. He said the majority of people causing problems are not guests or customers of downtown venues.

"Most of them were loiters outside of the bars harassing people," he said. 

Rugen worked as the security manager at The Penguin Piano Bar & Nightclub on Broadway Boulevard. Over the years he said he saw a decrease in law enforcement which made loiters feel less intimidated. 

"Sometimes it would take an hour, two hours before an officer would respond," he said. "When police levels decreased, we definitely saw an increase in large gatherings of groups downtown."

A heavier police presence is needed to cut down on the violence, Rugen said.

"They don't have enough troops on the ground that can combat all the increase in violence," he said.

Treece said Columbia City Council Member Clyde Ruffin asked the University of Missouri Police Department to help patrol downtown.

Police have trouble stopping people from openly carrying weapons downtown due to gun laws, Treece said.

"Often difficult for law enforcement to interrupt that type of activity," he said. "Unfortunately that's part of the gun loopholes that we have right now."

Rugen said bar and venue security guards need more training on what to look for, how to respond to violence and communicate with police.

"Anyone can be hired with lack of training and lack of knowledge," he said. "There is no training requirement for security personnel."

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