Local News

Program increases prosecution rates for violent crime

Posted October 25, 2018 6:20 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2018 10:02 p.m. EDT

— An initiative started in March called Take Back North Carolina is already working to reduce violent crime, said Robert Higdon, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

“In our office, for example, the prosecution rate has increased somewhere between 30 and 40 percent overall, and in the drug area about 60 percent,” he said.

The collaboration between federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies is ramping up prosecution of the most dangerous offenders.

Higdon said that means North Carolinians are safer.

“It doesn’t mean we’re finished; it doesn’t mean the job has been done,” he said. “We have a lot of work yet to do. But every time that we’re able to reduce that crime rate, people are safer. Fewer people die; fewer people are harmed.”

The crimes targeted include robberies, home invasions, gun crimes and especially drug-related violence, which has turned even worse with the opioid crisis.’

The impact of “drugs that are very, very powerful, very dangerous and often instantly deadly,” Higdon said, is “horrible.”

“It’s horrible, and we’re seeing it in big cities, we’re seeing it in small communities,” he said.

Higdon gave the example of the small town of Godwin, just off Interstate 95 in Cumberland County.

About 130 people live there, yet two drug dealers had taken over, spreading fear and drawing crime 24/7.

That was the case until June, when two brothers were sentenced to life in federal prison.

“When we were able to sentence those people to lengthy time in federal court, members of the community came back and told us that they were appreciative, that we had returned their town to them,” Higdon said. “That’s the kind of effect that drug trafficking has, whether on an entire community, in that case, whether it’s on a neighborhood in Raleigh or Durham or wherever it may be. Drug trafficking is destroying those neighborhoods.”

Nationally, the Department of Justice says the crime rate has dropped about 5 percent over the past year.

While there aren’t yet hard numbers in North Carolina, Higdon said in his conversations with law enforcement that number is about the same here.

He also said the issue is not about politics. He works with district attorneys and sheriffs from both parties who widely agree, no one wants to see crime and drugs harming local communities.

Higdon says he's on target to prosecute 1000 people this year.. which would be the highest number ever for this US Attorney's office.