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County taskforce, chaired by DA, hopes to stop crime before it ever happens

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 12:53 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Youth violence is at the forefront of the public’s mind following a shooting that took place at New Hanover High School and questions like, what can be done to prevent these sorts of things from ever happening again, are being asked.

That’s where the discussions on resiliency come into play. It’s something that folks in New Hanover County have been working on for several years now.

The New Hanover County Resiliency Task was formed back in 2018, the goal, “To build our community’s resiliency, we work to reduce and prevent ACEs (trauma), respond to existing trauma in children, adults and providers with knowledge, empathy, and compassion, and create opportunities for our community to form meaningful connections with one another.”

Now, District Attorney Ben David along with Andrew Heath, North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts Director, and a superior court judge are co-chairs for the Chief Justice’s Task Force on ACEs-Informed Courts. It’s a new program that wants to use the resiliency model and help prevent crime and create a safer community.

“ACEs are adverse childhood experiences and adverse community environments; those two aces contribute to trauma in the lives of our children. If that trauma is untreated, they are much more likely to end up in our courts as adults as either offenders or victims,” Heath said.

It’s a new program with the goal of steering young people away from the courthouse and understanding how different situations can play into the actions of someone in the future. According to David, there are 10 factors that they look at when determining ACEs – and there are plenty of real-world consequences for those who score higher on the ACE Scale he said.

“We know that 62% of our intravenous drug users here in the port city have ACES scores of four or higher. We know that they are 70% more likely to be victims or defendants in the criminal justice system if they have four or higher we know that if it’s six or higher they are actually less likely to live to their full life expectancy by 20 years compared to everybody else in the population,”

The taskforce on Aces is a state-wide effort that David and Heath say will help not only with the mental health of people in and out of the court system but, can hopefully prevent crimes from ever happening. They would do this by addressing environmental factors that might contribute to criminal behavior and getting people the help they need.

“What we’re trying to do is identify the children most in need of services and get down those resources that they need now because the good news is children are resilient and if you can get them to that scaffolding of support inside and outside the home we can change the arc of their future we can keep this community safer and we can actually prevent crime from ever occurring,” David said.

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