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N.C. police hope new diversion program will help first-time, low-offense criminals

Participants would be diverted from the traditional criminal justice system for first time, lower-level offenses


Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

By Kallie Cox
The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hoping to build on its success with its Youth Diversion Program, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said it is starting an adult version in partnership with Lowe’s.

The Adult Diversion Program would reach young adults ages 18-24, police officials during a news conference Thursday.

Participants would be diverted from the traditional criminal justice system for first time, lower-level offenses. The program would provide them with opportunities for education and employment in the hopes that these skills prevent them from entering the criminal justice system.

Since 2013, nearly 4,000 juveniles have successfully completed Youth Diversion training, according to CMPD. About 92% percent do not commit new offenses, police said.

Chief Johnny Jennings said he hopes the adult program will have even better results and a lower recidivism rate.

“I want to make sure that we are getting that mindset of each adult that’s going through this program to change and say ‘I can break this cycle,’” he said.

CMPD hopes to see generational success with this program, Jennings said. So that when an individual who commits an offense goes through the program, they come out successful and that success transfers to their children and grandchildren.

“If we can accomplish that, we can save a lot of court time, a lot of money, a lot of calls for service,” Jennings said.

How will Adult Diversion work?

The program goes into action immediately upon arrest, when an individual is eligible and referred by the arresting officer.

If the arrested individual is accused of a low-level, non-violent offense, and has no previous criminal history or arrest record, the officer will alert a CMPD diversion specialist about a potential candidate for the program.

For the program to work, the accuser or victim will have a say, and participants must sign a waiver and agree to complete between 25 and 100 hours of diversion classes within three, six or 12 months, CMPD Capt. Norman Garnes said. The amount of class time will correlate with the level of offense they have.

Lowe’s involvement

Lowe’s, the Mooresville-based home improvement retailer, and other companies will offer employment opportunities for individuals who complete the program.

Lowe’s also will contribute about $48,000 to the program, Hanh Pham, the company’s regional vice president.

Pham said she thinks the program will help the company as employers continue to face a worker shortage.

“We anticipate that we’ll be able to provide opportunities for qualified participants in stores in the local area, or anywhere we may have openings,” Pham said. “And these same young people become employable for other businesses, not only in Charlotte, but beyond.”

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