Monday, July 25, 2011

Dog and pony show

Opinion by Samantha Norton


Two events happened recently that highlight a problem in our community
and an inept attempt by government officials to correct that problem.


Event 1

Carter Strange was running home through Five Points when he was
savagely beaten by a group of men/boys ranging in age from 13 to 19.
Mr. Strange had to undergo both emergency brain surgery and facial
reconstructive surgery from the beating he suffered. Mr. Strange
managed to escape and was found TWO hours later by a passerby.
It has also been revealed that prior to the beating of Mr. Strange,
the group of men/boys tried to attack others people, but those people
escaped unharmed.

Event 2

The City of Columbia enacted an emergency ordinance imposing a
juvenile curfew covering the Five Points area for the next 61 days.
The curfew basically extends (there are a number of odd carve outs and
inclusions along the border) from Gervais Street to Blossom Street and
Heidt Street to Gregg Street with a spur that incorporates Maxcy Gregg
Park. Additionally the city has enacted a 2 a.m. bar closing which
will go into effect later this summer and some other measly steps have
been taken that I don't have room to address.

The issue here is how are these measures going to be effective in
preventing the type of savage beating that happened to Mr. Strange in
Five Points. I say they won't be and the incident itself points to why.
There has been a pattern for many months now of groups of teenagers
causing general problems and even criminal acts in Five Points. Yet,
after midnight (albeit on a Monday) a group of teenagers in Five
Points had the chance to not only threaten and attempt to attack
several individuals, but eventually became emboldened enough to
savagely beat an individual. And where were police patrols during all
that time? The teens had the time to try and attack multiple people,
yet it seems that the police were never aware of a potential problem
until Mr. Strange was found TWO hours after the attack. And he wasn’t
found by a police officer walking his beat or slowly making his rounds
in a squad car. He was found by normal citizens TWO hours later.

That is what is inexcusable in this situation; the police in Columbia
are so ineffective at their jobs that they can’t even adequately
patrol a high profile area where a specific demographic - male teens -
are responsible for an increase in crime. How is this inadequacy going
to change with the implementation of the curfew? The police still
won’t be able to properly patrol the same area; they will just have
broader powers to arrest people under the age of 17 (at least one
suspect in the Strange beating was over 17 and would not be subject to
the curfew). And later in the summer when another abridgment of
citizens' rights occurs - people's ability to freely associate and
consume alcoholic beverages in private establishments for as long as
they want - will the Columbia police be any more able to patrol the
Five Points area?

That perhaps is an even more important question with regard to Five
Points crime seeing how drinking after 2am will simply move from a
centralized bar district where they couldn’t prevent criminal acts to
a decentralized series of house parties. In my opinion that will
actually give teens contemplating a crime even better opportunities to
commit one.

So to sum it all up...in response to the inadequacy of our police
department, the worthless city council, needing a dog and pony show to
validate their existence and paychecks has passed a series of
attention grabbing ordinances and in no way addressed the underlying
problem.

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