Archived Story

Columbus business owners say there’s too much policing

Published 3:54pm Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In federal fiscal year 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012), the Columbus Police Department wrote 405 warning tickets and so far in 2013 (October through January), the department has written 159 warning tickets. During 2012, officers wrote 58 speeding tickets for someone going 25 mph or more over the speed limit, according to Beddingfield. There were 362 tickets issued for persons going between 16 and 24 mph over the speed limit in 2012. In 2012, Columbus police arrested 110 persons for driving while impaired. So far in 2013, Columbus officers have arrested 25 persons for driving while impaired.

According to the town’s monthly police report, in January, the police department issued a total of 199 citations, including 92 for speeding and 19 for drug charges.

“What we’re doing is for public safety, saving lives and reducing traffic accidents,” Beddingfield said. “If you’re not violating the law, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Beddingfield also said traffic enforcement is so important because all crimes go mobile at some point, including for drugs and stolen property. And the most successful way to catch criminals is through traffic enforcement.

Brenda Searcy said she was stopped pulling out of U.S. 74 and an officer tore out from the BP, came flying up the road and said he clocked her doing 56 mph in a 40 mph zone.

“I know that I was not,” she said. “I had just pulled out.”

She said she was not speeding and she’s never had a speeding ticket in North Carolina until then. She said she was found guilty in court and it cost her more than $200 for something she said she was not guilty of.

“It made sense when I read in the Bulletin today because they get so many points,” Brenda Searcy said. “Do you know how many people’s businesses have fell off since they’ve been doing this the past six months?”

She added that it’s “our” tax money that pays for part of the officers’ salaries.

“I don’t mind helping the town but I’m not going to be harassed,” she said.

Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said there is always one police officer on duty within city limits. He also told the Searcys council would take what they said and see where the town can improve if it needs to improve.

Beddingfield said the department does not get points for writing tickets, only for participating in joint operational check points and classes for BikeSafe. Columbus participates in the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program and receives points for participation, which equates dollar for dollar in free equipment for the department. Columbus was recently honored for being the top point-getter in the state for 2012.

Beddingfield also said his department gets more complaints that officers are not doing enough speed enforcement in town than that they do too much. The speed limit along Mills Street was lowered from 35 mph to 25 mph due to citizen complaints over speeding.

Beddingfield also said he knows of no businesses that have closed due to their presence in town.

“I’d hope people would feel safer coming to town due to there being less chance of getting hit by a drunk driver or speeder,” said Beddingfield. “We’re not out to harass people or to treat people unfairly, but to keep people safe.”

  • RuthiePerez

    I have nothing against the Police Force but In our county specially in the town of Columbus we have to many cops doing nothing but waiting to get someone for the littlest excuse. I have many friends that don’t come to Columbus because of the cops, they are really killing the Restaurant business in town, not just that; tourist don’t come because of that, and I’m sorry but the Chief of Police is lying when he says we can go and put a complaint that is even worse I know that from my own experience that is a NO, NO!
    They are arrogant! They don’t have any intention in being There is very few that are modest, but most of them would stop their mom for a speeding ticket. Wake up stop harassing us not every one is a criminal like the Columbus Police assumes!

  • chefrivers

    This is not article is not about speeding its about Columbus police harassing citizens that frequent that small town. CPD has to many cops and nothing to do! Its us paying their salary and they turn around to torment us with their policies? They dont work hard to keep the public safe since there is very limited crime in small towns. Keep it us CPD so Columbus can be a ghost town!

  • countrygirl9912

    I am proud of the Columbus PD officers. They work hard to keep the public and the businesses as safe as possible. It might not make me happy to swallow my pride and accept responsibly for my speeding through town but it was my mistake to correct. The officers work a thankless job and I am glad to see that Chief Beddingfield and the city administration has a backbone to back this department through the complaints.

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  • polkliberty101

    It’s good to see some checks and balances with people speaking out against what is viewed as intimidating police behaviors
    I have seen Columbus police involved in checkpoints outside of their jurisdiction also.
    The Police chief says if your not doing anything wrong you don’t have anything to worry about. In other words guilty until proven innocent so just shut up and show me your papers!
    There are laws restricting the scope of police checkpoints which we all suffer from regularly in Polk county. They have to operate under written plans that have restrictions. Check out GS20-16.3a . Also look up case State vs Rose as to whether general crime fighting is legal and within the scope of traffic enforcement checkpoints.

  • fallingman

    Thanks to the Searcys for having the courage to tell the truth and stand up to the police.

    Couple of points: In my limited interactions with the Columbus police and via heresay, they ARE polite and professional in their demeanor. What’s not professional or fair is the POLICY of ticketing people who aren’t causing a problem and ignoring people on their phones, people texting, and people generally not paying attention or creating dangerous situation.

    And I’m sure they ARE concerned with safety. That said, they’re really concerned with money. Those concerns don’t have to me mutually exclusive.

    Columbus is a faceless little town with a hyperactive police force. They’d be well served to focus on crime prevention and far less on harassment of drivers.

    More Andy Taylor and less Barney Fife please.

    • Gamble852

      I can say that the CPD does a great job of keeping our streets safe. Every officer of CPD are polite and takes their job seriously. To me a speeding ticket is a warning. The ticket is trying to correct what you have done wrong and prevent the loss of life. If you do not like seeing the police pulling over people who are doing wrong here in Columbus then maybe it is time that you packed your bags. And ticketing people who are not causing a problem? I’m pretty sure you cant just ticket someone for not doing anything wrong. You have to have a reason for ticketing people.

      • polkliberty101

        I’m glad people are finding interest here. I’m glad if I am in need I can dial 911 and somebody answers, believe me.
        Why should somebody move if they have a complaint about something? That is a classic way of debating though it seems, if you don’t like it just leave etc. maybe these people are not the only ones to have that opinion. Should they just move to Landrum? 25 mph through Columbus is very sensible, and safe, I don’t think many would disagree so please don’t speed. Some don’t like the idea that there is somebody around the corner waiting to ambush you when you might be making a reasonable mistake and a lot if people find heavy policing intimidating and a threat to their pursuit of happiness. If that is necessary, maybe we should have cameras installed in our cars and homes to protect us from ourselves. After all “if you aren’t doing anything wrong…..”

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