The Watch with Will Kennedy: Project Safe Cabarrus

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KANNAPOLIS, NC — Violent felons convicted of gun crimes. Getting these criminals off the streets is a priority for law enforcement.

In Cabarrus County, a multi-agency project is targeting the worst offenders in an effort to keep neighborhoods safe.

“This thing targets violent, habitual offenders,” says Lt. Terry Spry of the Kannapolis Police Department.

The worst of the worst, targeted by a unique task force, are getting the message. Only 19 percent of the 113 felons who have been notified by Project Safe Cabarrus since 2006 have been back in the system for a firearms charge.

“We started taking just the high risk offenders out of this bunch to notify, and that’s what’s made the biggest difference with this program,” says Cabarrus County Chief Probation Officer Danny Payne.

Concord and Kannapolis police, and the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office work with the DA and U.S. Attorney in a coordinated effort, examining cases and maximizing potential charges. Then they bring in the highest risk offenders once a year, giving them a choice.

“A message of deterrence from the law enforcement to stop the crimes, to stop terrorizing the communities, and then to offer services,” says Project Safe Cabarrus Law Enforcement Liaison Jodi Ramirez.

Project Safe Cabarrus is trying to keep the streets safe by targeting the most violent gun offenders, and either sending them back to jail or putting them on the right path.

“Are they in need of a GED?,” says Ramirez. “Are they in need of jobs? Do they need help through our social service agencies?”

Community partners offer those services as part of the notification process. It’s what Chief Probation Officer Danny Payne calls “justice reinvestment”–spending more time with high risk offenders.

“We’re targeting the right people to give this message,” says Payne. “And hey, here’s your chance to straighten up. We’re giving you all these resources. Or, you know, you mess up again, we’re going to get you the most time you can get.”

“If they continue to go down that road, there’s going to be consequences,” says Lt. Spry. “And either way, I think ultimately the community is better for it.”

Ramirez says the message is getting out. This year, five violent offenders were notified through Project Safe Cabarrus. As many as 18 have been notified in previous years.