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Group of people sitting around conference table
Group of people sitting around conference table
John Weil (second from right) meets with government officials to discuss strategies to fight against human trafficking. Photo taken in 2019.

Using data-driven strategies to keep North Carolinians safe. 

That’s the mission of UNC Greensboro’s North Carolina Network for Safe Communities (NCNSC), a training and technical assistance provider, research partner, and information exchange resource focused on reducing violent crime across the state.  

NCNSC, led by John Weil and Stacy Sechrist, has worked with federal partners in the state’s three judicial districts for more than a decade. Now, the network serves as the primary research and technical assistance partner for all three districts simultaneously. 

“It’s a big deal to be the only university in the state doing this work,” says Weil. “I think it’s a culmination of all the on-the-ground work, relationships, and trust over the years that have built up our reputation.”

NCNSC works closely with the U.S. Attorneys in North Carolina’s three districts to implement local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) programs. PSN is a national initiative that brings law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders together to identify pressing violent crime problems and develop solutions.  

What does it mean to be a research and technical assistance partner working on PSN? 

It means gathering a variety of data on violent crime in different areas and then creating and implementing reduction strategies based on the data.

“We’re gathering information from front-line law enforcement and other personnel about who the most violent offenders and groups are within that jurisdiction,” said Sechrist. “We go on site and review the last three years of homicides and the last 18 months of firearms-related violent offenses. We’re identifying offenders, victims, motivations, and geographic locations that may be of interest.”

The team then works to guide crime reduction strategies and provide operational assistance as needed. 

Data shows that a small percentage of individuals within any given community are responsible for a majority of violent crime. NCNSC and its partners are focused on these individuals and groups that serve as the main drivers of crime. 

Weil and Sechrist have found that communities who sustain the PSN work have seen significant, long-term reductions in violent crime. But it’s not just about identifying and prosecuting violent offenders. NCNSC works with local organizations to help offenders desist from crime and re-enter their communities. 

“Each individual offender who desists from violent crime is a success story, not only for that community but also for the individual, who now has the opportunity to maybe go back to school, get help with housing and childcare, etc. Being able to be part of an initiative that has a resource component to it is really rewarding for us personally,” says Sechrist. 

In recognition of their work, Weil and Sechrist were recently nominated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina for the Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Partner Safety.  

For NCNSC, the ultimate goal is to transform trajectories of communities across the state, and to improve how law enforcement and communities work together.

“We like to be involved in work that we know makes a difference – work that has positive outcomes and helps people become safer and work better with others,” said Weil. “There’s a lot of different aspects of this work that are satisfying and fulfilling. What we’re doing hopefully leads to prevention.”

Learn more about NCNSC at ncnsc.uncg.edu

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

 
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