North Columbia residents believe adding business could lower crime

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department has been dispatched to Ballenger Lane in North Columbia 11 times so far this year for either shots fired or shots heard, according to online dispatch records.

"Times have really changed," North Columbia resident Michael Anderson said.

Anderson said it's hard to pinpoint the cause of crime in his neighborhood but he thinks the distance from downtown Columbia is a factor.

"It's kind of a hideaway for them I think. They think they can get away with a lot more things than they could in town," Anderson said.

There is an unused 6.2 acre plot of land on the street, tagged as a "mixed-use neighborhood," or MN by the city.

Anderson said he thinks a new shopping development there would help lower crime in the area.

"It'd be too many people around, things wouldn't go on like that," Anderson said. 

Columbia Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he has been communicating throughout the year with Hana Enterprises, which owns the 6.2 acre property, about developing the land.

"He wanted to convert the properties into something along the lines of a coffee shop and maybe attract one of the library branches," Skala said. "More of a neighborhood commercial sort of feel."

Skala said he has not yet entered into any formal talks with Hana about when it might start development, but said it's important to him because he thinks the area is growing.

"We are expecting a new growth restore right next to I-70 on Lake of the Woods Road. That probably will bring some activity to this area, and then that piece of commercial property becomes a little more viable than it is now," Skala said. 

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