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Program Prevents Crime From Branching With the Family Tree

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RALEIGH — Raleigh police raid a home in what looks like just another drug bust, but this time they take away and book a father and son. It is a stark reminder of how crime can become a family affair.

Experts say a child with a parent in the criminal justice system is likely to imitate criminal behavior, but many believe the cycle can be stopped.

A drug raid at a Raleigh apartment yielded crack cocaine, marijuana, plenty of weapons and two arrests, Kenneth Lamar Holden, 46, and his 23-year old son, Jason.

The Holdens have not be convicted. But local law enforcement sources can name family after family where crime has become a way of life often spanning several generations.

"Having a parent that maybe is in the criminal justice system, you're not having the role model, obviously, that the child needs," said George Sweat.

Sweat is a former Winston-Salem police chief and the new head of the State Office of Juvenile Justice.

He has seen many cases in which children have followed their parents' criminal ways. It can be a cycle that is hard to break.

"The cycle of violence is not uncommon to be seen to follow that family history," said Sweat.

So how do you stop that cycle of violence? That cycle of crime that's passed on from one generation to another. Psychologists say first of all, the cycle never even has to start.

"I think this idea that just because you have a problematic parent or family life, you're automatically going to be a bad person. I think the data does not show that," said Dr. Michael Teague.

Teague is a forensic psychologist with theRaleigh Police Department. He says many kids simply refuse to follow their parents' lead.

"A lot of the reason that some children do not follow violent parents is the general rebelliousness of children to parents. Sometimes rebelliousness goes in a good direction," said Teague.

And that makes it even more important, says Teague, to provide early intervention for at-risk kids. Intervention like a unique program in Goldsboro.

The Fatheread project at the Wayne Correctional Center teaches prisoners to become better parents by steering their children away from crime.

"Their grandmother and their mother sent them here to talk to me, and I spoke to them, and 'I said don't do that. It's wrong. Those things lead to the things that caused me to be here,'" said inmate Bobby Burke.

Whether it is the criminal justice system, law enforcement, social services or public schools, Sweat believes the key to breaking the cycle is a collaboration of all agencies.

He says the goal is not to let children fall through the cracks, and he believes it can be done.

"We're not going to change this problem overnight. But it can be changed," said Sweat.

The Office of Juvenile Justice has begun establishing local Crime Prevention Councils across the state to help deter children from turning to crime.