Columbia City Council enacts permanent Five Points curfew

Columbia City Council approved permanent curfew for Five Points area. / Courtesy: City of Columbia

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Columbia City Council approved making the temporary curfew for Five Points permanent. Council passed the measure Tuesday following a public hearing on the issue.

The permanent curfew takes effect immediately. You can read the entire curfew ordinance here.

Under the curfew, those 16 and younger can't be in Five Points from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Business owners and operators in the entertainment district were in favor of making the curfew permanent.

We are all very aware of what happened as far as why this curfew's in effect and we are probably all unanimously in support of it," says David Abreu, supervisor of the Tutti Frutti yogurt shop in Five Points. "It's not going to hurt anybody.

The curfew, however, received mixed reviews from residents during Tuesday's public hearing.

"This isn't going to stop it completely, but it can cut down on it, if kids know, 'if I do this and I get caught, there is going to be consequences,'" according to Carter Strange's mom Vicki.

A temporary curfew, which was set to expire this week was first enacted in late June after Vicki's 18-year-old son was severely beaten by several teens in a parking lot in the 1900 block of Blossom Street.

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"They are not going to stop hanging out, but they will go to other places, such as my neighborhood where there are no cameras," says a Lyon Street resident.

"Our concerns are about young people. I do feel as though this matter is being handled incorrectly as it indicts 97 percent of the young people in the City of Columbia who don't fall in the category of those people who are committing these offenses," adds Lonnie Randolph, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Randolph and several others who spoke at the hearing expressed the same desire to have a citywide curfew.

Council members say now that a permanent curfew for Five Points is in place, they will start working a proposal to establish a citywide curfew, which would include the Vista, Main Street and Harbison areas.

Parents who do not stop repeat violations of the curfew are subject to a 30-day jail sentence. There are exceptions for those working in the area, or are on a church, civic or school event.

In addition, the City of Columbia's Public City Safety Committee is working to add more surveillance cameras to certain areas of the city.

The committee recommended Tuesday spending $100,000 in surplus and hospitality funds to place 25 more cameras in Five Points, the Vista, and the Harbison areas. The money would also go toward a system that would connect the cameras to a 24-hour monitoring station.

There are already at least 75 security cameras in Five Points which are operated by businesses. Some of those cameras have been donated by a private security firm. A spokesperson for The Five Points Association says the city should pay for the additional cameras because police frequently use the footage to solve crimes.

Privacy rights supporters believe there are already too many cameras in the area. They also wonder if the public will have access to the footage if the cameras are funded by taxpayers.

"If the cameras are owned and operated by the government, then there is a restriction on what the government can do to collect information," explains USC Media Law Professor Jay Bender. "But generally what you do in public is open for inspection by anyone."

Do you think more cameras are the answer to crack down on crime, or do you believe this is an invasion of privacy? Vote in our poll and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)