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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — According to recent data, NewsChannel 6 has learned crime is down by 18 percent in the city of Aiken. Law enforcement says that is in part to new personnel and new technology.
Compared to last year, homicides, aggravated assaults, and car thefts are down in the city of Aiken. Fraud is slightly up. Although the department lost an officer due to COVID-19, leaders say 2021 was a good year. “No officers were seriously injured or killed, and we kept our community as safe as we could,” Capt. Marty Sawyer, with the investigations division of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk. “We’re particularly proud because our crimes were down in 2021,” he added.
To help keep the community safe, ADPS hired a crime analyst to determine where crimes are happening the most. “I run the numbers and present them every week to the department heads and the shift leaders that way they know if there is a rise this week compared to last week and what the numbers look like this year compared to last year,” crime analyst Kristin Hontz said. “Whether it’s a violent crime, whether it’s speeding, whether there’s a lot of wrecks, car break-ins, catalytic converter theft, whatever it may be. They can see that in their computer, and they can go focus on the areas more, and we can put more people in the area,” Capt. Sawyer added.
The department now has a partnership with Aiken Barnwell Mental Health that has helped reduce crime. The partnership is to provide extra help for officers because confrontations involving people with mental illness can escalate quickly without it. “If there’s a problem with mental health or somebody that we think has mental health problems that we can’t handle on our own, they’ll come out and assist us by talking to the person, making a decision or whether they need to go to the hospital, making a decision where they need, you know, follow up later on whatever the case may be,” he shared.
Law enforcement says that COVID-19 prevented them from getting out to hold community-building events. They plan to get that back underway this year. “The law-abiding citizens are happy to see us and want us around,” Capt. Sawyer recalled. “The ones who are breaking law don’t want us there,” he added.
He also said that those events are to spend time in the community to have their officers know the neighborhoods and the people who live in them.
Authorities say another tool they have in reducing crime is you. “If you see something, say something, if you have information about a crime or about activity that’s suspicious in your neighborhood, call and let us know,” Hontz said. We’ve been putting up certain cases on Facebook asking for the public’s assistance. It can be completely anonymous, but the more information that they can provide, then the more we can bring justice to the victims of the crime,” she added.
Meanwhile, numbers are continuing to be larger for larceny charges. Law enforcement suggests it could be due to thefts of catalytic converters.