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Project SAFE marks its fifth anniversary

Salisbury’s Project SAFE Neighborhoods Task Force is marking its fifth anniversary of trying to reduce and prevent crimes involving guns.
The program does that by using federal, state and local resources in “aggressively identifying … individuals involved in past violent crimes” and trying to help them.
At the same time, officials “vigorously prosecute” “repeat violent and group offenders that utilize guns in committing crimes,” a press release said.
That starts with “structured community intervention,” according to the press release, in which:
– Past offenders are notified by volunteers about resources available to assist them in living a life without crime.
Community officials offer these past offenders help toward a general equivalency diploma, job readiness training, employment, alcohol or drug treatment, counseling, anger management, mentoring and transportation.
“If the community can’t help meet some of these basic needs, it will live with a cycle of repeat offenders,” said Henry Diggs, Project SAFE task force facilitator.
– Police also warn offenders if they don’t heed the warning and commit more crimes, they face prosecution “to the fullest extent of the law.”
Project SAFE (Strategic Aggressive Firearms Enforcement) funding paid for new federal and state prosecutors and supports investigators with additional training and resources. The program also pays for distribution of gun lock safety kits.
And as a deterrent to juvenile gun crime and gang activity, the program sponsors community outreach sessions and family fun days.
Announced in May 2002, the program held its first notification meeting in November 2003 attended by 19 violent offenders identified by local probation officers. Of those, nine asked for help from the community. To date, the program has held nine such sessions targeting more than 125 offenders.
“Project SAFE is not an offer to forgive but a way for offenders to turn their lives around,” said Salisbury Deputy Police Chief Rory Collins, director of the local Project SAFE program.
Project SAFE Salisbury offers educational outreach sessions designed for various age groups. For children, they include fun activities and instruction on gun safety, avoiding gangs, refusing drugs and resolving conflict without violence.
Bullet-proof vest and police dog demonstrations “offer the children insight into the life of a police officer with hopes that children will view the police as an ally in time of need,” according to the press release said.
Project SAFE supports the Salisbury Police Department’s anti-gang efforts with educational guides for parents and concerned citizens.
“A decrease in gun crime and citizen complaints are exactly the results that we are striving for … safer streets, neighborhoods and front porches for all to enjoy,” said Anna Mills Wagoner, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina and former chief District Court judge in Rowan County.
For more information, go online to the Project SAFE Salisbury Web site, www.salisburync.gov/projectsafe/safesalisbury.htm. Or call Teresa Vinson, Project SAFE resource coordinator, at 704-638-2175.

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