Aiken Public Safety puts new emphasis on community policing

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, July 20, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Patrolling the streets of Crosland Park Friday morning, Cpl. Jeremy Hembree wasn't looking to make arrests. He was looking to make friends.

Hembree’s part of the Aiken Department of Public Safety's new effort to patrol communities around the city. His assignment is Crosland Park.

"The public perception of Crosland Park is that it is a high-crime area. Although, if you look at the numbers, it is in line with other areas throughout the city,” he said.

News 12 rode along with Hembree for a typical patrol. He spends about five and half hours patrolling the streets of Crosland Park. The remaining time is spent in his office that’s also in Crosland Park.

"This is it,” he said, showing off his office. “This is where we want to feel comfortable at to where we feel comfortable and also the community feels comfortable to come in and talk with us."

Along with his partner, he spends eight hours each day patrolling Crosland Park. Three other pairs of officers patrol three other communities.

"What they're able to do is, through those patrols, build relationships with community members and neighborhood association to where they know the officers that are going to be out there each day,” he said.

Hembree says this new type of old-fashioned police work is showing results. Fewer people are loitering in the streets, more people are coming to neighborhood meetings and there's hope too that crime will go down.

Also, he says there's a positive impact on young people.

"Before the streets get them, we're able to guide them in the right direction,” Hembree said.

Hembree has his own baseball card that he hands out to young people he meets daily in Crosland Park. He says, one time he was at an armed robbery and was armed with his assault rifle. A school bus let off nearby, and a child that he knew came up and hugged him. He says that's just another example of how well this program is working.

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