As foot traffic increases in downtown Columbia, additional safety precautions are recommended for people and businesses
COLUMBIA, Missouri (KMIZ)
Downtown bars and restaurants have seen increased numbers of people in recent weeks following the lifting of the sanitary order and are expected to continue to lead through the summer months. The owners say they have seen additional law enforcement officers in the area to provide security.
Nickie Davis of The District Downtown said as the weather gradually improved, businesses were seeing more people. Davis said security is a major concern for the district over the coming months.
Matt McGee, owner of On the Rocks, said he has no plans to increase security anytime soon as he watches most of the “summer scuffles” that take place on the streets rather than in places.
“Lately the CPD has increased its presence at street level during weekend bar hours and it appears to be a deterrent when officers are very visible to broadcast situations,” McGee said.
Room 38 owner Billy Giordano said he had had meetings with his team about de-escalating situations early to avoid potential issues, but there had not yet been a need to increased security.
Davis said CPD’s community outreach unit has played an important role in the hands-on work downtown to build relationships with area citizens and businesses.
Davis said the district has also donated $ 30,000 to the city to help install around 90 street lights that will light up areas in the evenings and when bars are closed. She said they had been working there for almost 4 years and should be installed by the end of June or early July. The hope is that this will disperse the crowds when the bars close.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Columbia Police Department responded to 11 fatal gun crimes in 2020, down from just 3 in 2019. There were also 374 non-fatal gun crimes in 2020, or more than four times more. in 2019 with only 82.
Doug Lane, owner of Security 88, has linked the sharp increase to people locked up at home during the pandemic and the increased potential for depression.
Data from the Gun Violence Archive shows that the gun homicide rate in Missouri is worse than in all but two other states, and more than twice the national average.
Lane advises families traveling to more crowded areas this summer to have a safety plan in place and a designated place to meet in the area if anything happens.
Lane said many Covid-19 safety guidelines have been lifted and more people have made their way to the city center, he still encourages companies to monitor the numbers inside the facility and put in make a plan with staff on what to do in dangerous situations. He also encourages the people of the area to make a conscious decision whether it is safe for them to be in this area.
Lane also said that while people in the city center, especially until late at night, people should know the whereabouts of law enforcement officers and be aware of their surroundings. “Everyone wants to go out and shop and do their job, so they’re oblivious to everything that’s going on around them and don’t care what people are doing nearby,” Lane said.
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