Hospitality police unit being considered

COLUMBIA (WACH) - Balancing fun and responsibility, it's an ongoing battle in Columbia hot spots like Goatfeathers. Owner Jeff Helsley says city leaders are spending too much time thinking about how to curb crime in the city's entertainment district.

"What they used to do in this city is if a bar was a problem, they would tell them to keep their nose clean, or they would shut them down."

Columbia's hospitality committee is studying whether a special safety unit could cut down on the amount of problems in Five Points and the Vista.

"They would be a part of the Columbia Police Department, they would be Columbia police officers, but they would be a division that would work in hospitality areas," says Columbia Assistant City Manager Mike King.

Helsley thinks crime got worse after the city banned smoking in bars. "Half the bar is outside, and the doorman has no control out there and all the troublemakers that aren't old enough to get in are attracted to all this."

King says the committee has some work to do before determining whether a special police force is the way to go. "Are they an effective use of police officers, do they do what's needed to be done in the hospitality areas?"