“We need community involvement” — Aiken City Council evaluates safety

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Aiken city leaders are taking a new look at public safety. In the last few months, the community has grappled with several deadly incidents, including the drive-by shooting death of 12-year-old Edward McKenzie, Jr. Over Thanksgiving weekend, two people were killed in separate shootings — one person died when gunfire was unleashed on a crowd outside an Aiken nightclub. The Aiken Sheriff’s Department responded to that incident.

“We want to make sure everyone knows we are listening and care” City Councilwoman Gail Diggs said.

At this week’s city council meeting, attention turned to the Department of Public Safety, which has jurisdiction over the city of Aiken. Several councilmembers tell NewsChannel 6 DPS should not be blamed for recent violence.

“I think our Department of Public Safety has done a pretty good job over the years and has a pretty good track history on this.” City Councilman Ed Woltz said. “We’ve been able to contain these things usually. I feel comfortable public safety will get a handle on this too.”

Council members say keeping the streets of Aiken safe comes down to the community pitching in.

“I hope this alarms the community enough that they rally themselves and come out and support,” Woltz said.

The council will hear from local organizations in the next few weeks on the programs they can offer the public and how they can educate children and young adults about the dangers of getting involved in crime.

“Addressing youth, extracurricular activities, schools, getting involved with other organizations that are directly impacting our youth and young adults in our city is key,” City Councilwoman Andrea Neira Greggory said.

The city council will soon begin budget negotiations. Councilwoman Greggory tells NewsChannel 6 that will give the city a chance to examine if the Department of Public Safety needs more funding and, if so, how to distribute it.

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