Residents had an opportunity to address issues, answer questions and find solutions regarding community safety Saturday.
The City of Aiken conducted a Safe Communities Cultivating Community Seminar on Saturday at Smith-Hazel Recreation Center.
More than 100 people filtered into the facility, listening intently to the speakers, with a number of members in the audience taking an active role by participating in the Community Cafe portion of the program.
Safe Communities is a national initiative that was started at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2009 as a crime reduction model.
The first phase of the seminar was a presentation titled “A Safe Community in Action,” presented by Cynthia Mitchell, the Aiken Department of Public Safety’s community service coordinator.
Safety is of paramount concern within one’s own neighborhood, but it’s up to those individuals who compose the residents of a community to take ownership and personal responsibility to help reduce the levels of violent crime, Mitchell said.
However, communities nationwide are doing their part through proactive policing and by promoting law enforcement and community reconciliation, she said.
The importance of having a plan and strategy in place is critical, Mitchell said.
Communities can do their part in a number of ways, and a three-pronged approach can be used to arrive at those goals. Ships were used to illustrate how residents can improve the quality of life within their community, and can do so through ownership, relationships and partnerships, Mitchell said.
It’s imperative that an individual take ownership and responsibility and use common sense, she said.
Residents can make communities sustainable by building on existing resources and assets through partnerships and placing an emphasis on establishing a rapport between law enforcement and members within the community, Mitchell said.
An emphasis on improving the literacy rate and concentrating more on academics are also being used as ways to reduce the crime rate, she said.
Lt. Karl Odenthal, Aiken Department of Public Safety, provided the audience with a chronological look at how policing has changed over the years, during his presentation “The Community Policing Model.”
Odenthal also placed a heavy emphasis on statistics during his narrative.
Gangs, individuals with mental disorders, neighborhood cooperation and vigilance, and law enforcement operational effectiveness were also topics looked at in greater detail.
“Knowing your neighborhood is critical to solving crime, once it has occurred,” Odenthal said.
In South Carolina, 7 percent of the criminals commit 66 percent of the crimes, he said.
Education, economic development and safety were among the issues addressed during the Community Cafe phase, conducted by the Imani Group’s the Rev. Brendolyn Jenkins-Boseman.