Law enforcement officials in Aiken County are taking a new approach to stopping crime: go to the source, look them in the eye and tell them what’s going to happen if they keep it up.

It’s a program that’s worked well in High Point, N.C., which has seen a 54 percent decrease since 1990, while the population has increased by more than 25 percent.

On Thursday, dozens of representatives from local agencies and federal, state and local law enforcement, met with 13 chronic, violent offenders. The message to the offenders: We know you, we aren’t going to put up with it, the consequences will be swift and severe and we aren’t messing around any longer.

The offenders were invited by law enforcement as part of the first notification and call-in process for the Safe Communities Initiative. They weren’t forced to attend. Roll wasn’t taken – each offender was known by a number.

One-by-one, law enforcement officials and community members told the men what their actions were doing to the community and that they will face stiffer penalties and an expedited trial if they re-offend.

But they also offered the offenders help. They explained programs and ways to get help – opened their door to each one with a promise to help them help themselves.

They offered a fresh start.

It was a consistent message repeated over-and-over.

Judicial representatives surely touched a nerve. “Mandatory life – that’s forever,” Stacey Haynes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the group. “That means you leave the federal prison in a pine box.”

We look forward to watching as this program unfolds.

We hope there are testimonies from former violent criminals who, once given the helping hand and an understanding of the consequences, will change.