Columbia’s downtown would get a surge of police officers, paid for by bar and restaurant owners, under a proposal initiated by Mayor Steve Benjamin and being reviewed by interim Police Chief Carl Burke.
The city would allow bars and restaurants to hire off-duty police officers, permitting those officers for the first time to work in businesses that serve alcohol. City officials say the move would put extra officers where they are needed, at no cost to taxpayers.
The plan is specifically targeted for Five Points, where an increase in violent crime and property crime has prompted City Council members to explore closing bars at 2 a.m. and imposing curfews for anyone 17 and younger .
“It certainly would add visibility to the police presence in Five Points without the city having to pay for it,” city manager Steve Gantt said.