What is the state doing to prevent violent crime? Outgoing US Attorney Matt Martin of NC’s Middle District explains

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Combatting crime in the community happens on a number of levels, and it also takes a lot of partnerships and coordinated efforts. One of those partners is the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Attorney Matt Martin has served in the Middle District of North Carolina over the last three years. He will resign on Feb. 28, as requested by the Biden Administration.

Lindsay Tuman previously sat down with Martin about crime trends in the Piedmont Triad over the last year and efforts between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement to prevent crime.
During the pandemic, there has been a noted uptick in crime compared to recent years.

“We do see some pockets of lawlessness popping up, and so we want to get ahead of that and address that,” Martin said. 

He says crime had increased in the region from 2014 to 2017, but it had been declining through 2019.

“So the little bit of increase we’ve seen in 2020 in certain areas hasn’t put us back to that 2014-2016 time frame, but it’s still cause for us to double down our efforts,” the U.S. attorney said.

One of the biggest efforts his office has worked on is reducing violent crimes, and that comes from partnering with local law enforcement and the community.

“That partnership with the community allows us to not only have a tough law enforcement message for that small number of people who are willing to commit violent crimes and pull triggers but it also allows us to say if you will stop, then we have people in the community who are able to offer you services to help you with any needs you might have that may be contributing to the life you’ve been living,” he said.

His office has built up the Project Safe Neighborhood program to help with these efforts. That program offers help to offenders who have served their sentences and are reentering society.

Through community partners, they try to help by offering aid with things like transportation, childcare, employment, education and more. The aim is that aid will prevent someone from turning back to crime. But if they do, those re-offenders will face the strictest possible consequences from federal prosecution.

A big part of that work is done by analyzing crime data.

“It’s all data-driven. So, we have research partners from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. And those criminologists are able to come into a local community and identify some of the drivers of violence. So that prevents us from going on someone’s hunch, or certainly the police department has good information but just doing a shake-down of a neighborhood, that’s not necessarily going to prevent the violence for long-term and so the data-driven approach allows us to focus on the right place,” Martin said.

His office has been emphasizing the importance of the existing Project Safe Neighborhood chapters in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, as well as Davidson and Rockingham counties. It has also created two new chapters, one in Randolph County and most recently in Alamance County.

The U.S. attorney said he wanted to partner with local law enforcement in Alamance County on this effort because of some concerning trends.

“Alamance County, wonderful county, wonderful people, but it does sit on two major interstates, Interstate 40 and Interstate 85. It also sits between two large urban areas, the Triad and the Triangle regions here in North Carolina, and it’s influenced by both. It also happens to sit at a convenient stopping point between the southern border and the northeast, and so you do have a significant amount of trafficking that takes place through Alamance County,” he explained.

The crime data analyzed in the county has also revealed a concerning trend.

“We saw that over a quarter of people involved in violent crimes either as perpetrators or victims in alumnae county, over a quarter come from outside of the county,” he said.

Martin said over time it’s been proven across the Piedmont and the country this program works. He’s hopeful it will continue to be successful here and create positive change.

“We’ve also seen that across the country where people have been faithful to the partnerships and to continue to go at it even when there are disagreements, even when there’s adversity, even when there’s a little spike in crime here and there, they continue with the program and the strategy, the focused strategy, it works,” he said.

U.S. Attorney Martin will resign on Feb. 28. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Hairston will serve as acting U.S. attorney. President Biden will nominate a successor and the U.S. Senate will have to confirm the nominee.

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