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      Five Points business owners banking on safer school year

      Columbia, S.C. (WACH) -Thousands of students have flooded Columbia to kick off a new year, and local businesses couldn't be happier.

      "We're really anticipating a really good season with all of the students being here," said Denise Stahl, owner of Steel Gardens in Five Points.

      Stahl is hopeful the rush of students will bring more business through her doors.

      "We've really seen an increase just in traffic in Five Points since pretty much August first," added Stahl.

      With a string of unfortunate incidents overshadowing the college hot spot last school year, including the shooting of USC student Martha Childress, Stahl, a first-time business owner in the highly traveled hospitality district, says she has already seen an improvement with safety.

      "Going forward I think I'm foreseeing a good future for Five Points," said Stahl.

      Some steps have already taken place to improve safety for both students and patrons.

      Amy Beth Franks, director of the Five Points Association, says in conjunction with the University of South Carolina, a transportation corridor has been established giving students rides Thursday through Saturday nights.

      She adds that taxi services will also be available throughout the Five Points area.

      "The Five Points Association has been working real hard all year around with the city of Columbia staff, and with the police department to ensure that not just students, but that all of our patrons are safe," said Franks.

      Some veteran business owners say that Columbia police chief Skip Holbrook has an understanding of the community that will keep moving Five Points forward.

      "He seems to really have a handle on how that neighborhood works and what the city can do to help. Not only the safety of the people down there, but also helps us make it a better area for businesses," said Brian Glynn, owner of the Village Idiot in Five Points.

      For more information about the Five Points Association, click here.