Local News

Felons Get Warning and Help to Go Straight

Posted March 1, 2007

— An intervention program designed to keep Durham criminals from becoming repeat offenders is successful to a degree, but police agree it needs some work.

The Durham Police Department started the program in 2000.

Since then, more than 300 offenders have participated in Strategies to Abate and Reduce Senseless Violence, or STARS.

A recent study found while many of the 300 continued to commit crimes, the rate at which they committed violent crimes declined by 75 percent.

Without a doubt, the program is an unusual meeting of the minds. Cops, community leaders and criminals meet face-to-face to talk about real issues.

"We know more about you than probably your best friend, you girlfriend or your wife," Police Chief Steve Chalmers warned the 10 participants during a meeting Thursday.

Convicted felons serving probation are given resources to help them get jobs and education. They also are offered spiritual guidance, if they want it.

Police then monitor them for years.

The first step, though, is the intervention, where the felons are put on notice.

"If you're in the Hayti area and think you're gonna bring drugs in, the buck stops here!" said Yvonne Gilyard who works with the Weed and Seed Program.

Gail Neely of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence told the men how their actions impact others.

"It's affecting your family. It's devastating to your family," Neely explained. "What you do affects your children. It's a major, major part of their life."

Many of the participants in the latest round of STARS appeared uninterested, ready to leave the meeting.

Statistics so far show that 66 percent of the first 39 offenders through the program were back in jail within four years.

"It's working because at least 33 percent didn't wind up back in the system," Deputy Chief Ron Hodge said as he also acknowledged there's room for improvement.

"Anytime you start a new program, you're gonna have successes and failures," Hodge explained. "You have to look at what's working, what's not working and what you can do differently."

Hodge believes police need to spend more time with offenders at the beginning of the program to make sure they don't return to crime.

He also saids more emphasis needs to be spent on helping them develop life skills.

STARS offenders who do commit another violent crime are fast -tracked in the legal system. They face federal prosecution, which usually means stiffer prison sentences.

Realistically, police say they know this one program won't eliminate crime in a city that's seen too much of it. They do hope, however, that it will help some felons face reality: shape up or else.


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  • Get a clue Mar 2, 2007

    I wonder if Kleenex brand tissue is a sponsor for this hug and cry program. That's great that it's worked for a few, but if one of them kills somebody after being politely asked to not do it again, then it's a complete failure. Harsher punishments and longer sentences are the only answer I see at the present time. This idea has been brought to Raleigh just so you know. I don't think it's used much, if at all.

  • Ripcord Mar 2, 2007

    The 33% aren't back in jail because they haven't been caught or they moved out of the area.

    Violent felons are wired differently than most people. If you want to stop violent felons you have to send them a message they will actually understand: Serious hard labor and reeducation. Make prison a nightmare and while they are there use them for labor. Make them FEAR prison. They will understand that.

  • kota2947 Mar 2, 2007

    I got a magic wand!!!its called a ball bat,beat them till they have to be spoon fed.....NOW THATS CHEAPER...Then send them home so mom and dad can feed them AND they will know where they are at ALL times......OR KEEP MAKING EXCUSES

  • 0 Tolerance aka Ms.Turner Mar 2, 2007

    You people complain that nothing is being done about the problem and then when something is done but the results aren't good enough for you, you complain!! Why don't you pull out your magic wand and make it all better then...

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Mar 2, 2007

    So, we are spending more money on these criminals even after they are out of jail?
    I think I understand why they feel they need to "help", but if a majority of the 300 are still committing crimes, "just not at the same rate" is it worth it?

  • deerslayer Mar 1, 2007

    what ever.....

  • shakennotstirred Mar 1, 2007

    33% probably not getting caught is more like it...If they served time, they are most likely habitual criminals...Lord knows most don't go to jail unless they are constantly in court and then they get out serving 1/10th of the time they should have served...Those convicted criminals who do turn their lives around should be rewarded by the system rather than those who constantly clog it up...

  • houdie1031 Mar 1, 2007

    33% of these folks working, supporting their kids, feeling good about themselves. No longer a drag on society. That sure beats anything else that's been done lately. I say let's get up and support anybody who wants to do better. You try being poor riding the bus an hour each way to TACO Bell to make minimum wage. See how long you stay straight. Let's hand to the 1/3 of these folks who decided to do something better with their lives. I would welcome this program to Raleigh. Thanks.

  • Tools Mar 1, 2007

    Say what?

    "It's working because at least 33 percent didn't wind up back in the system," Deputy Chief Ron Hodge said as he also acknowledged there's room for improvement.

    If this is considered "working" then our criminal justice system needs to take off the rose tinted glasses. It sounds like a complete failure to me. Let's start focusing on punishment and forget about teaching "life skills".

    "Many of the participants in the latest round of STARS appeared uninterested, ready to leave the meeting."

    Well there ya go.