Downtown Augusta will start to see an increase in police presence in an effort curb crime there. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is re-evaluating safety measures for the downtown area.
Sheriff Richard Roundtree says his administration has been working on a downtown safety plan over the last several weeks. He says the plan will put 9 deputies in the downtown area. That plan will be unveiled in the coming weeks, but right now, you will already notice more deputies downtown.
The General Manager of Farmhaus Burger on Broad Street says that last week's First Friday event was a success.
"It felt really really safe. In light of the stuff that has gone down recently, it was fantastic. We were super happy with the police presence here on First Friday," says Darby Carpenter.
But the police presence isn't only being beefed up for First Friday. Carpenter says he has noticed more deputies downtown over the last month. It's all apart of Sheriff Roundtree's downtown initiative. There are deputies wearing neon vests and some riding bicycles. Carpenter says he is thankful to have them so close to his restaurant.
"If something is going on then one of the guys who is down here, as part of the initiative I guess, is here within 5 minutes and takes care of any problems you have," says Carpenter.
Carpenter isn't the only one noticing the deputies downtown.
"There has been a great presence. That is important and that deters crime when you see the presence. There is no question," says Butch Gallop of Augusta, GA.
"Sounds like we are headed in the right direction with the police downtown to patrol," says Dennis Sodomka of Augusta, GA.
The downtown initiative is a little too late for the owner of Rock Bottom Music Center. The store is leaving Broad Street for a new location on Washington Road. After the First Friday shooting last summer, the owner told us he decided to leave downtown because of the crime.
But all of the people we spoke with say they don't see a crime problem downtown. They park in well-lit places and walk together to try to prevent something bad from happening.
"I don't do anything specific other than carry my keys straight out if I have to poke you in the eyeball," says Lennore Burge of North Augusta, SC.
Carpenter says his restaurant has been getting a lot of business since it opened in February. He says he looks forward to working with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office in the downtown area.
"I mean of course, there is going to be unforeseeable instances of crime, but for the most part I really think downtown is a safe place," says Carpenter.
Sheriff Roundtree says if the downtown initiative works, he will expand it to other parts of the city.
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