03/17/13 — Program will take first step to curb city crime

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Program will take first step to curb city crime

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 17, 2013 1:50 AM

Calling all criminals.

The Goldsboro Police Department has joined forces with the community and the court system in an effort to stamp out violent crime in the city with a new initiative called the Goldsboro Partners Against Crime, which will debut March 19 in the City Council chambers.

The call-in program, described by Police Chief Jeff Stewart as "the High Point model with a Goldsboro twist," will offer 20 to 25 offenders presently on probation or parole a final opportunity to get back on the straight and narrow.

"The GPAC program, in partnership with a national program called Safe Neighborhoods, is a way of applying local strategies to fight crimes that involve guns," said Kim Best, City of Goldsboro public information officer.

As a condition of their parole, the offenders will be instructed to report to the City Council chambers. There they will be briefed by the Goldsboro Police Department's GPAC coordinator Sgt. Theresa Chiero about what they are going to experience. They will also be checked for weapons before being brought, en masse, before the GPAC.

The offenders will hear from community members who are fed up with the violence in the city, but also want to demonstrate compassion. They will hear about existing resources the city and county offer such as assistance with job training, life skills, alcohol and substance counseling, housing and health services.

The idea, Ms. Best said, is to show them that they can walk away from a life of crime and start fresh on a new path.

"This will be one last plea for them to change their lives," she said.

Then, the law enforcement side will address the group. Representatives from local, state and federal law enforcement will speak to the offenders. Also present will be members of the judicial system, including representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the State Attorney's Office and the District Attorney's Office. This message will be a lot more stern, Ms. Best said.

"The community message was the feel good piece," she said.

The law enforcement side might be tougher to swallow.

The offenders will be told in no uncertain terms that if they continue to offend they will be investigated, prosecuted and sentenced.

There will be no more probation, no more waiting years to go to trial, Ms. Best said.

"Their names will go to the top of the list," she said.

If the offenders are prosecuted again, it will be documented in their records that they have attended the call-in and been given the chance to reform willingly. If they are appearing before a judge after that, Ms. Best said, there will be no leniency.

The GPAC Call-In is expected to last only a couple of hours. In that time, the offenders will be given a lot of information to digest and, according to the program brochure, a lot of support if they are willing.

A week later the offenders will meet with their probation and parole officers and be given the chance to request more information, to ask questions and get whatever they need to make an informed decision.

Ms. Best said Sgt. Chiero has put in a lot of hours and worked tirelessly to get Goldsboro's brand new community program off the ground.

The March 19 call-in will be the first but certainly not the last, Ms. Best said, although each one will target a different group of offenders. The goal is to eventually get to the point, as she and Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan witnessed at recent a call-in in Fayetteville, to have these kinds of talks with first-time offenders.

Ms. Best said the faith community from within the city is firmly behind the initiative and is offering resources to assist the offenders should they chose to turn their lives around.

The message outlined in the brochure states that the initiative is not a strategy for forgiveness of those who have committed violent crimes in the community, but rather a promise to vigorously prosecute repeat offenders.