Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott holds up a sign with a curfew notice sent out by the SC Dept. of Corrections.
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says Five Points has become a hub for gang members late at night on weekends, but he says efforts can be made to target the problem.
Lott spoke Wednesday about a recent operation his department conducted to both evaluate the problems in Five Points and come up with solutions to solve them.
Back on October 26th, Lott sent both undercover and uniformed officers into Five Points to determine what was behind recent violent incident there. His officers reported back that one particular gang has decided to try and "claim" Five Points as their area.
"From 12 midnight on, Five Points was the hub for all gang members in the Columbia area to go to," Lott said. "They were flooding that area."
Lott said the gang members were there to looking for fights with rival gang members and looking for people to rob.
Another problem--Lott said gang members are converging on a Five Points bar called "The Library."
"They're inside the location, they're wearing their colors, they're showing their membership in gangs," Lott said. "That one club is the draw for the gang members that are coming into the Five Points area."
"They [The Library] need to close, they need to close or they need to cease the type of operations that they're doing right now. They are the sore spot in the Five Points area."
After reviewing what they'd found, this past Saturday night deputies targeted the area using three tools: using undercover officers in plain clothes, conducting a traffic safety checkpoint on Harden Street, and working with the Department of Corrections youthful offender program.
Lott said the corrections department helped them put a curfew on about 100 offenders, telling them they could not be in Five Points after 9 p.m. or they'd face immediate arrest.
Lott says none of those offenders violated the order.
Meant to stop gang members from cruising into the area, the safety checkpoint went into effect at midnight. Trained officers also patrolled the streets of Five Points looking for known gang members and any possible criminal activity.
Lott says there were no incidents in Five Points during the operation, which he says proves that law enforcement can curb the problem.
He said Columbia Police were not part of the effort, simply because they need to coordinate with other parts of the city government to pull off such a plan, something Lott said he doesn't have to worry about.
"I don't have to ask permission. If it's a law enforcement function that we need to get done, then we go out and we get it done.
However, Lott said his department would not be able to do this routinely, and would coordinate in the future with the Columbia Police and the University of South Carolina Police to do more to go after gangs.