Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott says his agency will more aggressively enforce safety in Five Points in the wake of several violent incidents this past weekend.
Scott addressed reporters in a news conference Tuesday held in Five Points.
Scott pointed to three incidents: a beating of 21-year-old man by a group of people, another assault, and the firing of a gun outside a business.
Earlier Tuesday, video surfaced of the 21-year-old's assault. That victim and his family spoke to News19 Monday. Previous Coverage: Video Surfaces of 5 Points Beating
Scott said the city has stepped up their efforts over the last several months to increase safety, and pointed to the creation of a hospitality team and training for bars and restaurants.
After this past weekend, though, Scott said his agency will be doing more, stating there would be a more visible presence.
"We have to act and change the mindset that you will come to Five Points and victimize people," Scott said.
Scott repeatedly--and pointedly--brought up his contention that much of the problems arise from underage and excessive drinking in district. He says college students and some bar owners have become comfortable, and are letting these types of violations slide. According to Scott, the city has sent a message in the past that this activity wouldn't be tolerated, and perhaps some need a reminder.
"I think it's time to set that tone again," he said.
Over the last several weeks, he said he's gotten complaints from parents of underage people cited or identified for underage drinking. He said it used to concern him, but with violence escalating, he said he's not worried about those kinds of complaints right now.
"Now it won't bother me," he said. "I will protect our people in Five Points."
Scott also said he and the city will look at loitering in the area, specifically people who repeatedly drive around in the area when they don't intend to patronize any shops.
"I want Five Points to thrive," he said. "Five Points will be a successful hospitality area."
Scott also said there's no evidence that the most recent violence involved gang members, although he can't completely rule it out. He also addressed the racial component. In the assault of the 21-year-old victim, he was white and all his assailants were black.
Scott said he just saw a case of men getting into an argument that got way out of control.
"A fight is a fight is a fight," he said "I don't care what color you are...I and the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's office are going to prosecute that case the same."
"The City of Columbia is not playing," he said "We're making sure these guys are caught and prosecuted."
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin released a statement on the violence:
"The most recent incidents in Five Points cause me significant concern. Over the past 15 months, the City of Columbia has stepped forward with a number of strong and decisive public safety initiatives for Five Points. We passed the Juvenile Curfew, installed additional security cameras, created a new Hospitality Enforcement Team and dramatically increased our overall police presence in Five Points with more patrols and more boots on the ground.
"Today, although overall crime in Five Points is down 26%, there is more work to be done.
"Under Chief Scott's leadership, merchants, residents, visitors and anyone hoping to cause problems should expect a more aggressive police presence, a low tolerance for loitering and traffic control measures that may limit vehicular access for nonresidents in residential neighborhoods.
"Council will also review exceptions to the 2AM bar closing ordinance to determine if we need to take a different course.
"We will need the active leadership of Five Points restaurant and bar owners, residents and the University of South Carolina in order to present a truly unified front and meet this challenge together."