Downtown Safety Summit presents proposed changes to City Council

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 | 4:54 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Downtown Safety Summit Chairman John Baker presented a series of recommended changes Monday night for the The District to the Columbia City Council during a precouncil meeting.

The committee was created last July to make recommendations to improve safety in The District.

Baker, pastor at First Baptist Church, said the changes, listed below, would create a "fun and safe" environment.

  • Keep an increased geographic policing of the district

The Downtown Safety Summit has not looked at any studies on security cameras but still feels that cameras can deter crime, Baker said. First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said there are many studies that show cameras have limited effects.

  • Enhance lighting in alleyways downtown.

Baker suggested either increasing the brightness of existing fixtures or installing more lights.

  • Increase mandatory distance from store entrances for panhandlers

City law currently bans panhandling within 25 feet of a store entrance.

"People do have a right to panhandle," Baker said, but Columbia's City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said if the distance increase is too much, the restriction could be completely prohibitive on panhandling.

  • Mandate bar employees in Columbia to participate in training for responsible serving

Baker suggested the State of Missouri Alcohol Responsibility Training free online program or an equivalent program.

  • Identify certain dates to create a "hospitality zone" downtown

Hospitality zones would include additional trash receptacles and portable toilets installed for events.

  • Enhance public transportation downtown at night

The emphasis would be improving the availability of public transportation Thursday through Saturday evenings. The proposed changes also would create an adequate number of taxi stands and provide a downtown shuttle service.

  • Install emergency call boxes downtown

Baker said the Downtown Safety Summit has not determined which recommendations would require funding from the council, but suggests funds raised from businesses could help pay for — if not fund entirely — some of the changes.

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