LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) — Lumberton and Robeson County officials were joined by representatives from the North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center to discuss plans for a $1 million grant Monday afternoon, which they plan to use the money to fight and prevent crime.
$150,000 will go to the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office and Lumberton Police Department over three years. That money will be used to increase patrols in high-crime areas. Sheriff Burnis Wilkins said youth violence is on the rise, and recalled a recent shooting involving a teenager.
“Even this past week we had a shooting involving youth in which a 15-year-old was on an Instagram video flaunting a gun and telling of all the stuff he was going to do,” Wilkins said. “Then he got shot in the head that night. He is still in the hospital, I believe, and has lost an eye.”
He said that though youth violence is going up, violence as a whole is on the decline. The remainder of the grant will go to a variety of organizations focusing on preventative measures, especially mental health. Wilkins said law enforcement in the area has recognized the value in preventative measures.
“Back in the day I was all about locking you up,” Wilkins said. “But we see the need now for rehabilitation, we see the need for folks that need mental health.”
Wilkins cited drugs as the main cause of violence in the area.
“These girls who are out on the street prostituting didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a prostitute,” Wilkins said. “There are reasons for it, and the main reason is to get money to get drugs.”
Paul Smokowski, research director for NC-YVPC shared data that indicated violent crime in Robeson County has slowed in recent years, but is still well above the rates for the country and state. He found economic disadvantages to be the top cause of crime in the area.
“Which ultimately leads to stress in families and for businesses,” Smokowski said. “That stress can lead to frustration that ultimately leads to crime and violence.”
Joe Osman, Robeson County’s assistant district attorney said preventative programs like this have had success in other parts of the state.
“It is exciting that they are starting to come about in Robeson County because we have been desperately needing these things,” Osman said. “I think both Burnis and Chief McNeill would agree with me that we have spent far too much time policing and prosecuting than we have preventing.”
Jim Barbee, executive director of NC-YVPC said it took a year and a half to get the grant lined up. Other examples of things the money will go to include expanded victim services and mediation options.