News 12 First at Five / Thursday, June 13, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Cheryl Cummings grew up in the Balltown community of Aiken.
"I love my community. Anything that I can do to make sure that my community is safe, I'm going to do that,” she said.
Cummings fights crime in her home of Aiken. She's not an officer, but she's an ordinary citizen taking a stand. It's all part of a new community initiative where criminals are told enough is enough.
"This is a brand new thing for Aiken County,” she said. “How many communities do you know who are saying to offenders, come over here and let us help you because we care about you?"
It's a program of second chances. Repeat violent offenders are brought in front of a board of law enforcement, and they're given a choice.
"They really have three options. They can do the right thing and be a productive member of our community, they can go to prison for a long time or the streets will get them,” said Chief Charles Barranco of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, who’s the architect of the Safe Communities Initiative.
Tyrik Bright chose prison. After he was notified earlier this year, he reoffended. He was arrested by ADPS in February on several drug charges.
On Wednesday, the Aiken County Solicitor's Office expedited a previous burglary charge that he was on parole for and got Bright convicted by a jury of his peers.
"He received a 12-year sentence on a maximum of 15 years and still has other pending charges,” Barranco said.
Barranco says Bright will be an example of what not to do when a new batch of repeat offenders are notified during the next notification, or call-in, on June 27. Just like last time, another group of about a dozen offenders will gather on the second floor of the Municipal Building to hear the same message from law enforcement and community members: stop the violence.
"You have to take advantage of the choices and the opportunities that we are giving you. If you don't, that's what happens,” says Cummings, who’s actually a member of the community component of the initiative, the Aiken Safe Communities Action Team.
Cummings says out of the original group, three or four are taking advantage, and the community is getting safer. While none have landed a job yet, several have taken advantage of valuable resources that puts them on the right path.
"We're binding as a community as a whole, and we're taking charge of what goes on in our community,” she said.
Bright wasn’t the first Safe Communities offender to reoffend. Last month, 22-yearold Kennard Thomas was charged with pointing and presenting a firearm after investigators say he pointed a handgun at a family member in New Ellenton. A violent task force was called to locate and arrest Thomas after the incident. Thomas later turned himself in at the Aiken County Detention Center.
If you would like to get involved in the community component of Safe Communities, contact Cynthia Mitchell at (803) 642-7780.