Project Next Step credited with reducing crime|Figures indicate
major offenses down 28 percent

Published 2:34 am Friday, June 19, 2009

Contributing Editor

Major crime offenses in Washington are down 28 percent for nearly the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to preliminary data from the Washington Police Department.
Police Chief Mick Reed credits the department’s Project Next Step for the apparent reduction.
Statistics indicate that occurrences of homicide, rape, robbery-aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor-vehicle theft and arson decreased from Jan. 1 to June 8 of this year compared to the same period the year before.
“The thing I am most grateful for is the community’s support,” Reed told the City Council on Monday as it received an update on Project Next Step.
Reed said the council’s support factored in the program’s success. He also said the city’s Human Relations Council has been instrumental in getting community leaders to promote and support the project. The update was presented by police Lt. William Chrismon and April Corbett, coordinator of Project Next Step.
Chrismon said he and others, initially, were somewhat uncertain about the figures indicating such a decrease in major crimes.
“They looked too good to be true, so we contacted the FBI in Raleigh,” Chrismon said.
The FBI’s initial review of the data indicates its valid information, he said.
“We hope the official report from the FBI is the same thing,” Chrismon said. “We’re having an impact on the city of Washington.”
Corbett also believes the data is on target.
“The statistics are showing that we have made significant progress through the police department and Project Next Step,” she said.
“We’ve at least changed direction,” Reed told the council.
Chrismon said that he, Reed and Corbett understand Project Next Step has more work to do.
“At this moment, we are looking at where we are going to take the program next,” Chrismon said.
Since the program began in early 2008, the department has spent more than 450 man/woman-hours above and beyond regular patrols and increased surveillance of drug activities and crackdowns on minor offenses.
Not only is the rate for major crimes down, figures also indicate the department is more productive in some areas, he said.
From Jan. 1 to May 1 of this year, when compared to the same period in 2008, the number of arrests that resulted in cases being cleared and/or closed increased from 443 in 2008 to 654 this year, an increase of 47 percent.
The total number of incidents reported decreased from 763 in 2008 to 618 this year, “which is a 19% reduction in report crime,” according to a department document.
“It’s a tremendous asset to this community. This community needs to keep this program,” said Bishop Samuel Jones Jr., co-founder of Purpose of God Annex and Outreach Center in Washington, in a brief interview Wednesday.
The center is one of Project Next Step’s partners, helping provide educational and employment opportunities to Project Next Step participants. The center operates Project New Hope Refuge Intervention, a program that works with people with criminal pasts and other at-risk people to give them a second chance and hope for a better future.
“Project Next Step really is an asset, because it deals with a group of people I can’t deal with. … They have a prevention program,” Jones said. “That saves them from coming to me. It keeps them from getting a record. It saves these kids. It gives those kids a second chance.”
Project Next Step works with at-risk people to prevent them from becoming criminals.
Councilman Richard Brooks has been involved with Project Next Step since its inception in the city.
“I feel like it’s a good thing. It gives them a chance to turn their lives around. … It says to me that we’ve got a positive effect on our youth,” Brooks said Wednesday.
He believes the program is having a more-significant effect than anticipated.
“I didn’t expect it to be down that much,” Brooks said about the apparent drop in major crimes in the city. “This is something I expect the City Council will continue to support.”