News 12 6 o'clock / Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- It's a new way to deal with crime that gets everybody involved. Instead of keeping violent offenders locked up, the community helps them become productive members of society. The city of Aiken and community members came together at a seminar on Sunday morning to figure out a way to stop the violence.
"People need to get more involved in their own lives and stop looking for law enforcement to changes the situation of their communities," said Christopher Garris, a former gang member.
Garris says he knows that the police aren't the only answer to making neighborhoods safe.
"The sheriff, the chief and law enforcement, as they said, aren't going to arrest their way out of this problem," Garris said.
And the city of Aiken knows that. The municipality recently started its own scared-straight program The program was started in High Point, N.C. It helped the city to reduce violence by 57 percent. Officers hope it does the same for Aiken.
On Thursday, Aiken's violent offenders faced a panel of local law enforcement for the first time.
"It's not just about crime in the City of Aiken," said the sheriff Thursday night.
It's also about community involvement. That's why people filled the gym at the Smith Hazel Recreation Center. Neighbors came together to see how they can help police reduce the violence. The seminar lasted for a couple of hours. HOAs, churches, business owners and neighbors were all discussing ways to keep the community safe, and while the program is new to this community, Garris says don't blame the police if your community isn't safe.
"Law enforcement is only there a part of the time, you live in your community 24 hours a day," Garris said.