Local News

Recent Crimes Committed By Repeat Offenders

Posted July 15, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Raleigh Police have arrested the man they think attacked a Wake County woman.

The suspect in the attack is no stranger to officers. He has a lengthy record.

Benny Tyson is charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, rape and armed robbery. His arrest is the latest example of a complaint police officers have all the time -- that they keep seeing the same suspects over and over again.

Prison officials say there are two major public safety issues with inmates. They want to prevent them from escaping while they serve their sentences, and rehabilitate them so they do not commit more crimes.

Prison officials say they are doing everything they can to keep inmates from coming back to jail after they are released.

Tyson has been in and out of prison since 1989, when he was just 20 years old. His lengthy criminal record includes drug and assault charges.

"It does get frustrating sometimes when you arrest the same individual over and over," says Lt. Dennis Lane with the Raleigh Police Department.

Another repeat offender is accused of trying to rob a Johnston County Pharmacy Thursday.

Joe Edwards was shot when he struggled with the store owner over a gun. Edwards' rap sheet includes a prison escape.

Like Edwards and Tyson, four out of 10 released convicts break the law again.

"We'd like it to be less, but you have to remember they were criminals when they got to us," says Keith Hester with the Division of Prisons.

Prison officials are trying to reduce the number of ex-cons who get back into trouble. Inmates can get counseling while they are behind bars.

A new self-help program tries to steer them in the right direction by teaching them to make better decisions, but trying to change hardened criminals is an uphill battle.

"We may have them for two years, after having had certain lifestyles and behaviors for 23 years," Hester said. "So there's no magic way to stop somebody from re-offending. There's no magic program that does that."

Prison officials say their newest and most effective program has only been in place for a year. However, in other states where it has been used, they have seen a 20 to 30 percent drop in repeat offenders. It has not been in place in North Carolina long enough to track the results.

As of March of this year, more than 113,000 people were on parole or probation in North Carolina.

Of those 113,000 offenders, the Bureau of Justice estimates 41 percent will make a return trip behind bars, which is 46,000 repeat offenders.