A new two-man Columbia Police squad has begun patrolling in the central part of the city from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. to combat drug sales and nuisance crimes more proactively.
The Columbia Police Department has also asked the Community Action Unit to help the patrol team in central Columbia during the early morning hours.
“The central city area is the ‘known’ place for drug sales,” Chief Randy Boehm said. “Drugs have become such a mobile business that people come here from different neighborhood areas.”
After recent police raids on drug houses, there has been an increase in open-air drug sales on sidewalks and streets, police said. Not just residents have complained; drivers have also reported drug dealers trying to sell to them alongside their cars.
Officer Jon Logan, an eight-year veteran who has worked in central Columbia as a member of the Community Action Team, proposed the squad after observing that day-shift officers were too busy responding to calls to practice preventive policing.
“That’s why we need a proactive team getting a handle on community policing on a full-time basis,” West District Commander Capt. Stephen Monticelli said.
Logan has been assigned to the squad, along with Tim Giger, a 10-year veteran and a detective in the Major Crimes Unit. Selected from many applicants from different police divisions, the pair began the patrol in mid-December. The squad is patrolling by car but will be on bikes and on foot as the weather gets warmer. More bike and foot patrols will help officers have a closer view of the community.
In addition to arresting people for drug sales and nuisance crimes, officers have been trying to meet and talk to community residents. That’s the primary purpose of the squad, Monticelli said.
Meanwhile, the Community Action Unit, consisting of one sergeant and four officers, is helping the patrol team in central Columbia during the early morning hours.
The combination of police efforts has already had an effect in central Columbia, police said, especially along Garth Avenue where complaints are frequent. Residents say they’ve already noticed less crime, Monticelli said.