Feds to join fight against crime in Conway - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Feds to join fight against crime in Conway

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CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The City of Conway and the federal government are set to join forces in a crackdown on crime, but the program needs a lot of community support.

"The police can't do everything all the time for everybody. It takes a partnership between the community and the police," Conway Chief of Police Reggie Gosnell said.

The program they're trying to adapt will send serial offenders to jail for longer sentences

"The federal component brings harsher sentences, longer sentences and they get the trials moving along in a much shorter period of time than they do in state court," Chief Gosnell said.

And the program will aim to give some criminals a second chance.

 "The ones that are not so ingrained in this type of lifestyle, or activity there's hope for them to change their lifestyle," Chief Gosnell said.

Conway Gosnell asked US Attorney Bill Nettles to work with Conway on the program to get violent criminals off the street. A similar program was featured on Dateline NBC for its successes in North Charleston and Aiken.

Though the program is still in the planning stages, Conway Police want to make sure this is something the community can get behind.

Gosnell wants to focus on the Highway 378 corridor where there are known gangs, prevalent drug activity and weapons violations.

Chief Gosnell says there are certain pockets in Conway where the crime is so embedded, it's going to take more than basic law enforcement to stop the violence.

Bill Nettles and Chief Gosnell will meet on November 12 to discuss specifics of the plan. From there, Nettles and Gosnell will speak to the community to let them know a crackdown on crime is in the works, and anyone with knowledge of violent crimes needs to come forward.

Once invested community members take that step to make their neighborhood safer, police will go in and make arrests.

Criminals with extensive criminal history will be booked into jail. With the federal government's involvement, those arrested are assured a speedy trial, sentencing and longer jail sentences, forcing the arrested to serve at least 84 percent of their sentences.

The second leg of the program will focus on the offenders with minimal criminal history.

Those people will be offered an alternate to jail time through education and job training as they work to pave a new path for their lives.

"What we find out at least in Conway's situation is most of the ones that we deal with on a fairly regular basis that are engaged in these types of activities didn't finish school. They have no marketable product they can bring. They just can't sell themselves," Chief Gosnell said.

Chief Gosnell says the city is willing to take a chance on the ones who could better the community.

Though it seems strange to publicly announce these investigations before they begin, Chief Gosnell says the idea is to get people to stop breaking the law before they end up behind bars.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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