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DOWNTOWN VIOLENCE: Mayor Saffo's answer... bar owners should take more responsibility

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) - The community is at odds over who should step up and help fight the ongoing violence downtown and it seems everyone is pointing a finger at someone else to come up with solutions.

Some say it's the Police Department's job, but Chief Ralph Evangelous said Monday he's got as many officers downtown on the weekends as he can spare, and says the teens and 20-something's who constantly fight should take responsibility for themselves.

Bar owners we've heard from say what happens after patrons leave their bar is not their problem.

And still others say city leaders should step up and come up with solutions. But Mayor Bill Saffo points his finger back at the bar owners and says they should take more responsibilities for their customers. He told a local TV station Tuesday that he's asking owners and employees to have stricter policies and to step up security.

This is the same mayor that back in September said at a city council session that it was the media's fault for creating an image of downtown as being a violent place. "If it's a slow news day and something is going on at the bars, it's going to get attention," Saffo said Tuesday night. "Unfortunately the perception of downtown is that it's violent. I can tell you I've walked down late hours, and I've never been bothered, but if it bleeds it leads." When we asked him to clarify what he meant, he quickly backtracked saying, "I'm not blaming it on the media. If it was taken that way, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to go that way, and I probably shouldn't have said that. I think the media's helped us in shedding light on some of the problems."

Saffo says he hopes state lawmakers will give local leaders the authority to close down bars where there is on-going violence and says the North Carolina ABC Board has helped by not allowing more bars to open downtown.

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