03/18/16 — GPAC to enter first 2016 call-in on Tuesday

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GPAC to enter first 2016 call-in on Tuesday

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 18, 2016 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro Partners Against Crime anti-violence initiative enters its fourth year with its first call-in of 2016 scheduled for Tuesday.

Representatives from local and federal law enforcement agencies along with community partners will confront a dozen or so probationers at historic city hall at 6 p.m. March 22.

The public is invited to attend.

The GPAC program is designed to offer violent offenders a last-chance opportunity to straighten up or face harsher sentencing on their next criminal conviction.

Since the first call-in took place in 2013 -- the initiative was adopted in 2012 and is based on a model employed in High Point -- a total of 197 offenders have been "notified" that they were receiving their last warning.

Of those notified, 39 have reoffended, 17 of whom have since been convicted.

"We knew we would have repeat offenders," Community Partnership Coordinator Capt. Teresa Chiero said.

Chiero, along with former Goldsboro Police Chief Jeff Stewart, helped start GPAC by going to High Point and witnessing first hand how the program worked.

"That we knew from the get go," she said.

Offenses range from drug violations to weapons offenses and murder.

She said the number of reoffenders -- about 20 percent of those notified -- is good by comparison.

"I think that is a pretty good rate," Chiero said.

For those who either have not reoffended or have not been caught reoffending, tracking their productivity or lack thereof falls on the Wayne County Department of Probation.

It is impossible to know without the offender self-reporting whether or not they are working or if they have gone back to school.

The community portion of GPAC offers tools such as work certification, education and housing assistance, child and health care and substance abuse counseling to those who ask for it.

The law enforcement side only promises to fully investigate and vigorously prosecute those who do reoffend.

Last year, however, a grant was applied for and obtained that will pay for a part-time community resource officer to be hired to conduct follow-ups with those notified and to try to steer them toward rehabilitation, Chiero said.

Additionally, the number of call-ins for adult offenders this year has been reduced from four -- held once a quarter -- to three. Another two call-ins aimed at juvenile offenders will be implemented to try to correct delinquent juvenile behavior before those youths are lost to the prison system or saddled with felony records.

"This year I will be doing something with juveniles, the more violent juveniles, coming out of juvenile detention," Chiero said.

She said with the youthful offender call-ins there will be some differences as opposed to the adult sessions.

"There will be no public forum. We will be presenting different (options) to them," she said.

Those options will include ways to get back on track in school, and to better inform the youthful offenders that if they break the law, there will be repercussions.

"Letting them know they will be paying the consequences of their actions," she said.

Greenville and Elizabeth City have since adopted similar programs after watching Goldsboro go through the pains of implementing GPAC and making it work

"Greenville invited us -- (then-)Chief Jeff Stewart and myself -- when they started their program," Chiero said.

She said Goldsboro shared what it learned from High Point and from instituting its own program with Greenville, and then with Elizabeth City.

"They are getting ready to hold their first call-in coming up," she said, referring to Elizabeth City.

Chiero also stressed that the community is invited and encouraged to attend the call-ins. She said so many people are interested in what is leading to and what the consequences are of violent crime in the city, they should come be a part of the solution.

"They have concerns. We have had a lot of people who have had concerns," she said. "This is their chance to come out and see what we are doing about it, and to help out."