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Police try to preempt crime with overwhelming presence

Police in Columbia, South Carolina, pulled out all the stops in an attempt to deter crime in the Five Points during the weekend of the University of South Carolina-Georgia football game. Crowd control measures included watchtowers, drunk driving checkpoints, and even police riding around on three-wheeled scooters. The department deployed three paddy-wagons to deal with the anticipated arrests and coordinated the entire effort from a bus-turned-command-center.

The show of force was largely in response to violence that took place after USC beat the University of Missouri on September 23rd. A shooting and two mob assaults occurred after that game. At least three people face assault charges from incidents occurring on that date, though it is unclear if those charges are related to mob violence. There is no word on whether the suspects obtained a criminal defense attorney.

This particular Gamecock game was sold out, and authorities expected over 82,500 sports fans to attend the game and thousands of additional revelers to tailgate in the area. The police department spent an estimated $11,000 alone in overtime for 50 police. Specialty teams deployed included the gang unit, the drug suppression unit and the newly formed firearms prevention unit. The Richland County Sherriff's Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol were also involved, as were the USC Law Enforcement Division and a detachment of military police from Fort Jackson.

As is always the case with larger-than usual police actions, authorities must make a point to balance their order-keeping mission while maintaining people's civil rights. Officers emphasized that they were not there to prevent people from having fun, but rather to keep them safe. However, there is often pressure on officers in actions like these to arrest first and ask questions later, in order to keep a strict grip on public order. Sometimes, authorities may tout arrest figures as evidence that such an initiative was successful, regardless of what charges are filed or whether or not they even stick.

Source: The State, "Columbia police plan major show of force for weekend in Five Points," Noelle Phillips, Oct. 3, 2012

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