Deputies cracking down on downtown to change its image

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, August 7, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Downtown Augusta has had its share of controversy and crime, but several recent arrests had us wondering if it's part of a new push to clean up the area. News 12's Christie Ethridge asked law enforcement, and they say it's the people in downtown who are actually making the difference.

News 12 noticed recent arrests for things like prostitution, panhandling, and lewd behavior downtown, all crimes deputies are alerted to by responsible citizens.

"People have a negative outlook on downtown, and we don't want that," Sgt. Shane McDaniel said.

The Sheriff's Office is upping patrols in hopes of reducing crime and changing downtown's image.

"I think a lot of people feel a lot safer about coming downtown. They feel a little bit more secure having that extra security definitely helps," said Anastasia Baker, a frequent downtown patron.

But even with increased patrols, deputies say changing the perception starts from the heart of the community.

"A team effort, everybody working together with law enforcement, and we're seeing some results," Sgt. McDaniel said.

Just yesterday two men were arrested downtown on charges of lewdness and indecent exposure. Callers told deputies Wayne Harris was urinating in public and David Roberts was, "sitting on a bench wearing a skirt and his his parts were showing," described McDaniel. "We're seeing a huge number of callers calling us with the same information."

"I think it's people really taking ownership of the city, really showing pride in the city and really showing they do care about what happens and they do care about the progression of Augusta," Baker said.

Thane Plummer just moved his business to downtown Augusta.

"There's a lot of growth. It think there's a lot of potential here," he said.

After two months in his new spot, he can already see a change.

"It think it's sort of moving its way from this end of Broad on down," Plummer said.

It's a revitalization the Sheriff's Office says comes full circle. It starts with your calls and in turn makes your streets safer.

"The general public is concerned about their safety. They want to go downtown to Broad Street, they see something that doesn't look right, and they're bringing it to our attention," McDaniel said.

"9-1-1 on speed dial," Baker agreed.

The proposed curfew to the riverwalk, the use of reserve deputies, and the potential for cameras downtown are all a part of revitalizing downtown's image, and slowly but surely, people say it seems to be working.


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