Robeson County, North Carolina

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation

Robeson County, North Carolina

BCJI Funding Year: FY2019

BCJI Awardee: North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center

Research Partner: North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center

Focus Area: Lumberton - Population 21,000; Robeson County - Population 130,625

Challenges: Youth Violence, Poverty, Theft, Assault and Family Offenses, Homicides

Neighborhood Characteristics

The Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) project in Robeson County, North Carolina, is focused on a small city called Lumberton, the county's only metropolitan area. Lumberton has a violent crime rate three to four times higher than the statewide rate for North Carolina and the national rate; additionally, the city struggles with a property crime rate approximately four times higher than North Carolina and national rates. For comparison, Lumberton's violent crime rate in 2017 was 1,589 per 100,000 residents; this was slightly less than Baltimore's violent crime rate of 2,027 and much higher than Chicago's violent rime rate of 903.8. The only cities in the U.S. that exceeded Lumberton's violent crime rate in 2017 were Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, and Milwaukee.

Planning Phase

During the Planning Phase, the North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center (NC YVPC) developed and sustained an active leadership role managing the BCJI grant award by serving as the core partner of a cross-sector team. The NC YVPC Director of Research, Development, and Community Impact, Dr. Paul Smokowski, served as the project director facilitating the Cross-Sector Crime Reduction Partnership and Mr. Mike Brill served as the site's full-time site coordinator. Dr. Smokowski, Mr. Brill, and Mr. James Barbee, the NC-YVPC executive director, work to facilitate collaboration among law enforcement, criminal justice organizations, and service providers. A research subcommittee was also formed with faculty from the University of North Carolina Pembroke, consisting of Drs. Renee Lamphere and Mathew Hassett, to track crime data and recommend evidence-based solutions.

The BCJI model is based on the principle that sustainable reductions in violent crime require collaboration among partners in the criminal justice system, service providers, and the communities they serve. Having worked on collaborative projects such as managing a teen court in Robeson County for the past nine years, NC YCPV staff have extensive community connections. They used preexisting relationships with law enforcement and court personnel to form these cross-sector partnerships. During the Planning Phase, the cross-sector team guided the strategy selection for the Action Plan. Strategies were selected to address the overarching goal of reducing violent crime in Robeson County.

Implementation Strategies

The overarching project goal of reducing crime, violence, and victimization in Robeson County guided the selection of implementation strategies. By analyzing crime data collected during the Planning Phase, the Robeson County BCJI team identified the following Implementation Phase goals:

  • Implementation Goal 1: Reduce family-related offenses
  • implementation Goal 2: Increase positive, healthy relationships
  • Implementation Goal 3: Reduce negative coping strategies, such as drug use, assault, and property crimes
  • Implementation Goal 4: Increase conflict resolution skills

To accomplish these goals, the Robeson County BCJI team created an Action Plan, which includes primary prevention strategies, secondary prevention strategies, and tertiary prevention strategies.

  • Primary Prevention: Strategies for community members before problems arise.
    • Directed Patrol: The Robeson County Sheriff's Office and the Lumberton Police Department will focus resources in areas where crime is most likely to occur.
    • Gang Prevention Mentoring: This practice provides at-risk youth with positive and consistent adult or older peer contact to promote healthy development and functioning by reducing risk factors.
    • Community Awareness on Victimization and Trauma, Trainings, Events: The Robeson County BCJI team will facilitate online and face-to-face training on youth violence issues (e.g., bullying, cyberbullying, teen dating violence, adverse childhood experiences) and adult violence and victimization (e.g., assault, domestic violence, human trafficking). The Robeson County BCJI team is partnering with Robeson Community College to conduct education and training within the law enforcement curriculum for School Resource Officers and police recruits.
  • Secondary Prevention: Strategies for at-risk groups after problems begin.
    • Mediation: A restorative justice diversion program that provides offenders and their victims the opportunity to meet face-to-face in the presence of a mediator to discuss the offense and establish a plan for the future.
    • Juvenile Diversion: Redirects youths away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system while still holding them accountable for their actions. This approach is designed to reduce reoffending by minimizing youth contact with the criminal justice system and diverting youth toward services that address their psychosocial development and other needs that contribute to their at-risk behavior.
  • Tertiary Prevention: Remediation after serious problems occur.
    • Victim Services
      • Psychotherapy for Victims of Sexual Assault: Includes interventions for adult and juvenile sexual assault victims that reduce psychological distress, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and rape trauma through counseling, structured or unstructured interaction, training programs, or predetermined treatment plans.
      • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy: A therapy program for children who were victims of traumatic life events (such as sexual abuse) and their parents.
    • Child Advocacy Center: A multidisciplinary, victim-focused approach designed to improve forensic interviewing and the continuity of care for youth who are victims of sexual abuse and assault.

Other Key Partners

Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Court, District Court, Lumberton Police Department, local clergy, local business leaders, Lumbee Tribal Government, Community-In-Schools, Rape Crisis Center, local schools, Robeson County Public Health Department, Robeson County Department of Social Services, Community Services Work Program, Robeson County Partnership for Children. 

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.

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