Anti-crime program gives criminals a chance to change

Conway Police Chief Reggie Gosnell said overall, the amount of crime within Conway has gone down significantly over the past few years, but there are still some historically high-crime neighborhoods that he's concerned about. To help those areas, Gosnell is planning to start a program to give those who've committed minor-offense crimes a chance to change.

Here's how it works: police collect evidence of suspicious individuals within a given community. In one mass operation, they arrest as many of them as possible. But before they're sent to jail, police give those with minor offenses an opportunity to turn it all around.

"We'll have federal prosecutors that will adopt some cases, and others will get an opportunity to change their lifestyles and hopefully get involved in the program that will be offered, get a job, make a substantial difference in their future and not be prosecuted," Gosnell said.

Those who choose to become a part of the program will be given mentors, as well as the tools they need to improve their lives for the better. This can range anywhere from education services to counseling opportunities.

Gosnell said there was a similar program done in North Charleston back in 2011, and it had a high success rate. It also gained national attention from being featured on an episode of Dateline.

"I think it'll be something that at the end of the day, we can look back and say it was a good investment for the community, and more importantly, it was a good investment for the city," Gosnell said.

Areas like Taylor Square and Huckabee Heights are on his list of communities to try the program on, and he said this will have to be a huge community effort.

"When you have actively engaged people reporting crimes, and we'd rather have something reported and it turn out to be nothing than to have something going on and it turn out to be a major impact on that community," Gosnell said.

The program is still in its planning stages, and Gosnell hopes to have it up and running as soon as he can.