Project Next Step aims at crime

Published 9:41 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

By Staff
Goal is to make local area safer
Senior Reporter
Project Next Step is designed to take the City of Washington and the Beaufort County community to the next step of safety.
It’s a complicated plan that includes many actions that cannot be made public because that would break the project’s mechanism to end crime and make the local areas safer, he said.
The City of Washington and Beaufort County comprise the only law enforcement jurisdiction in the eastern part of North Carolina that is trying this innovative approach to promoting safety.
Its concept was developed at Harvard University and has been used effectively in Texas.
To assist the project’s goal, it calls on several resource components, including all community leaders and members who have a stake in the safety aspects of the local areas, law enforcement agencies, the justice system, the Washington City Council, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, the local community of faith organizations, the City of Washington’s municipal departments, the Beaufort County government departments, the schools and other community organizations that want to fight the local criminal element, Reed said.
Community leaders, citizens and the business network come together in this project and it is key that everyone in the community works together, Reed said.
The Washington Police Department began the project by examining crime data beginning with the incidence of serious offenses.
Zones were set up after receiving this data so that the police department, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s office can work together to track the crime and intervene.
Often people in crime-ridden local neighborhoods think law enforcement is not doing what it should to fight crime, he said. He said this program will show people that the new project works and will give them confidence to live in their neighborhoods in peace.
The project is in its initial stage and it is slowly identifying all of the players in the criminal make-up of Beaufort County and the City of Washington, he said.
A series of maps have been devised in this project by law enforcement officials that will guide them to areas where they need to intervene.
The inspection of calls started with observing total calls for service and then movement was made to document criminal calls, including murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, fights and shootings.
Calls were also examined upon whether they were drug-related.
The vulnerable neighborhoods were identified and the plan is putting its sights on those pockets of crime where intervention needs to be instituted soon.
He said the project is rolling along well now and will change the crime culture in the local area.