Residents called to shore up street patrol
Last September, the Columbia (S.C.) Police Department launched a program to increase the presence of officers on city streets. The Community Safety Officer (CSO) program enlists residents to patrol neighborhoods and to secure public buildings.
In May, the first nine CSOs graduated from Columbia’s program. In July, six more officers were dispatched. CSOs supplement police and fire departments by taking on non-emergency duties and by serving as liaisons between residents and city agencies. The CSOs’ duties include:
- providing high-visibility foot patrol services,
- directing motor vehicle and/or pedestrian traffic during special events,
- collecting incident reports for minor incidents and violations,
- conducting property surveys, and
- inspecting and maintaining fire hydrants.
The CSOs also patrol local parks and provide round-the-clock security at two water treatment plants. By assigning CSOs to those tasks, the city can dedicate seasoned officers to more complicated public safety activities.
“Our CSOs will allow our certified officers to concentrate on Part One crime incidents Ñ which include robbery, aggravated assault, murder and rape Ñ as well as crime activity involving street-level drug distribution and street-level prostitution,” says Charles Austin, first assistant city manager.
The City Council dedicated $250,000 for CSO training and salaries. CSOs must be at least 17 years old; have graduated from high school or have a GED; have a South Carolina driver’s license; pass a background check, drug test and medical exam; and have no prior criminal convictions.