“The Public Safety Concept, having the same personnel trained in both Fire Safety as well as Police Safety skills, has been present in Aiken for about 50 years,” Chief Charles Barranco told the Senior Men’s Club of Aiken at their September meeting. “Many cities – especially large cities – have both fire and police departments. However, for smaller communities, cross training of police and fire personnel provides a cost saving that stretches the tax dollars without loss of services. The challenge is to hire and train the right personnel. Nevertheless, this had proved successful in 47 cities across the nation, including three in South Carolina.”

“Aiken’s Public Safety office has achieved a Class 2 fire rating – the second highest rating – and was the first department to get that rating in 1981 outside of Columbia,” Barranco, justifiably proud. “Only one department in the state has a Class 1 rating.”

Because of the success of this Public Safety concept, Aiken has been chosen as one of ten cities selected in a nationwide Michigan State University study to examine the combined fire and police department concept.

When asked about crime in the city, Barranco was pleased to report that a proactive “Safer Community Initiative” has been started modeling the system used in High Point, N.C. This initiative involves the combined efforts of Police, nonprofit and faith-based organizations working with the U.S. Attorney and solicitor to help prevent violent crime rather than to react after the fact.

High Point put in place the system some time ago, and, although their population has since doubled, the violent crime has been halved. Training and education of offenders is key to getting them back on the right track. The police chief and community leaders of High Point will be coming in October to mentor the project beginning in Aiken.

Aiken is making progress on all fronts dealing primarily with reduction of violent crime, drugs, gangs and domestic abuse/violence. Chief Barranco commented that only a small portion of the population is involved with violent crimes, but the new initiative will hopefully lower crime rates in all categories even further.

The Senior Men’s Club of Aiken will be meeting on Oct. 17 at noon at the Woodside Country Club, 1000 Woodside Plantation Drive. For more information about the club, call 226-0338.