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Edgefield should close “The Center”

web posted November 17, 2008
OPINION – The inevitable happed early Sunday morning when shots once again rang out just before 1 am at “The Center” on Macedonia Street in Edgefield, one man was shot and had to be airlifted to the MCG Trauma Center in Augusta. This is the fourth shooting incident there in five weeks and the second this weekend. It is time the Town of Edgefield steps up to the plate and rids the town and surrounding neighborhood of this deadly threat.

The Center, as it is called, is private property that the owners rent for private parties. It is notorious for those attending to have weapons, drugs, and alcohol which almost always spells trouble for neighbors and police.

However, rest assured the owners and those attending the party will be the first to throw out the race card rather than try to justify the actions of those who attend the many parties. The first person to make the issue racial is absent of any reason or argument, race is all they have.

Will it be about race when a stray bullet kills a baby asleep in its bed in a nearby house? Yes, because these same people would be the first to complain that the town and police knew about the problem and did not do anything about it because it was a minority community.

This is not an issue based on race; this is about providing for the “health and general welfare” of the community.

There are high-level talks being held by the town leaders to see what can be done. That is a step in the right direction.

The property being privately owned will present problems, but all can be overcome with proper consideration. The town has passed a first reading on a new nuisance ordinance that will aid them in the process of stopping the parties, but it does not go far enough in dealing with the type of problems stemming from “The Center”. That is a good thing; the nuisance ordinance should be broad and flexible because it covers the entire town. It does provide for a way to shut the parties down at a decent hour, but only if they are being too noisy.

However, it’s not the noise that is the problem at the Center, it’s the bullets.

Perhaps the town should move towards requiring commercial properties rented out to third parties having to acquire a permit from the town before a party can be held at the location. This would put some teeth into the nuisance ordinance, as grounds to refuse a permit could be “piggy-backed” on the ordinance due to repeated problems at a particular location. It would also not be a problem for other locations that never have any problems. To avoid the permits being called “racially motivated”, there should be no cost involved in obtaining the permit.

Parties held at a person’s place of residence would be excluded from the requirements but would still be covered under the nuisance ordinance.

If a location ignored the ordinance and refused to seek the required permit the party could be shut down before it gets underway. No permit, no party, and everyone would have to leave. If they refuse to leave they can go to jail for disorderly conduct or breach of peace. The person throwing the party could also be charged for violating a town ordinance.

Some may argue that the ordinance would be passed to prevent only the Center from having parties, and that would show it to be racially motivated. Since it would place the same requirements on all locations that rent to third parties it is equitable and legal. It would also not prevent the owners of the Center from being able to rent the location for gatherings in the future as long as they cease to be a perpetual nuisance and lethal threat to the public.

The Edgefield Police Department may also be able to force the closing of the Center without an ordinance due to pubic safety concerns. After all, more shots have been fired at the Center in just the last five weeks than have been reported in shooting incidents across the entire county in the past year.

There is no question in our minds the location is a hotbed for gang members, illegal drug activity and numerous other problems that have never made the news. People also think less of a shooting when no one is struck. To that end, the bullets do not stop just because they miss their intended target and at that point target an innocent person or persons as a possible victim.

Whatever direction the Town of Edgefield chooses in dealing with this problem it needs to act fast before a citizen, child, or a police officer is killed. The residents of the town and the surrounding communities, black and white, should come together and take back their right to live safe and secure in their homes.

Next time there will be more victims, and almost certainly death, to follow. Failing to act is not an option for the town and any further spilled blood will rest on the hands of the town leaders as much as it does on the hands of the thug or thugs shooting the guns.

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