News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- First Friday has been under scrutiny since six people were shot on Broad Street following last month's event.
City leaders, who've been charged with the task of making changes to the event, say the crime may have brought change for the better.
"It has made people downtown really take ownership and say, 'This is our city, it's not the thugs' city,' and that's a good thing," said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
One of the ways organizers say the community took ownership is putting together events on the Augusta Common this month. It's something the Greater Augusta Arts Council says First Friday hasn't seen in a long time.
"That came out of the community. That was an unexpected boost for us that some community leaders in the entertainment business decided not to just tell us what we should do, but to go ahead and take it on themselves," said Brenda Durant with the Greater Augusta Arts Council.
The mayor says he likes the direction of First Friday but says in order for it to become what it once was, the perception of downtown has to change.
"It's going to take people coming downtown and seeing for themselves," said Copenhaver, inviting the public to check out First Friday. "Come downtown, see what it's all about, stay until nine and then go home."
The Sheriff's Office told the public Wednesday night to expect a much larger police presence this week. Deputies say in the past, First Friday has been understaffed because of having to take deputies from other areas. They told News 12 that this First Friday, they'll be patrolling downtown without sacrificing other areas.
"We are hoping to make a bold statement and prevent it from ever happening again," Cpt. Scott Gay said.