Columbia police plan safety summit to address downtown crime

Saturday, August 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 1, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department’s new downtown enforcement policy has resulted in more arrests and filed reports from the city’s officers, according to statistics released by the department earlier this week.

The increased numbers come in part from calls that officers initiate themselves. For example, the number of "check open business" calls, in which officers check in on downtown businesses, increased 860 percent in May and June this year as compared to the same time period in 2008. Assaults and disturbances have decreased over the same time period, according to the statistics.

The new downtown police unit consists of a sergeant and six officers focused on taking a more proactive approach to downtown crime. The reasoning behind the team is that as more arrests are made for what people often consider “minor” crimes, the more serious offenses tend to decline in number, Sgt. Chris Kelley, the unit's supervisor, said in a news release.

The release of the downtown crime statistics comes as the department is working on a new "safety summit" for downtown. Kelley is asking representatives of downtown businesses and the Special Business District to join him and the Police Department in forming a committee focused on addressing crime concerns in the area.

The committee's goal will be to hear questions and concerns from businesses and residents and to encourage ideas for promoting a safe atmosphere downtown, Kelley said in a news release.

The safety summit committee is expected to be in place by early- to mid-August, the release stated.

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