The City of Aiken and Aiken Department of Public Safety will hold two meetings Thursday to inform residents about a crime-reduction initiative being considered for Aiken, and to hear from residents of a North Carolina city in which the initiative has been implemented.
Over the last several months, Public Safety has been reviewing and studying the initiative, known as “Safer Communities,” which is based on academic research as well as statistical information gathered by local law enforcement officials, according to a statement from ADPS.
Regardless of community size, the common result of the research is that a small percentage of individuals are responsible for the bulk of crimes.
Several community members and law enforcement officials from High Point, N.C., where the initiative has been implemented, will discuss their success with the program on Thursday at 1 p.m. in rooms 1 and 2 at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center, 1700 Whiskey Road, and at 6:30 p.m. at Friendship Baptist Church, 515 Richland Ave. E. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.
The initiative involves traditional law enforcement and community members working together to reduce crime.
Offenders are identified based on their present and past criminal activities and must attend a meeting with law enforcement officials and community members to hear the effects of the crimes they’re committing.
The offenders are also given, in writing, the penalties they face if they commit another crime.
From there, offenders are offered opportunities through area service providers and nonprofit organizations to help them pursue a “different, more productive path,” according to the statement.
By presenting offenders with the possibility of serious prison time if they re-offend, High Point found that most chose to accept support from their community instead.
Offenders who commit another crime face the state solicitor and a U.S. attorney, who can seek the maximum penalties allowed by law.
“It’s a proactive approach to stopping crime before it happens,” Public Safety Sgt. Jake Mahoney said. “… It appears it will be a good fit for our community. The law enforcement in Aiken has tremendous support from our community, so we think it will be a good fit.”
Mahoney said the department has been in contact with multiple organizations about the initiative, both local and governmental.
“We do have support building for this program,” he said. “We hope over the next few weeks that that score will continue to grow, then we’ll initiate the program and reduce crime.”