Changing Together program seeks to deter violent offenders

A joint program between the Asheville Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, and other agencies aims to deter violent offenders in the area.

“This is for the community’s most violent offenders,” APD Detective Sgt. Mike Lamb tells Xpress. “There’s a large group that comes together to offer these violent offenders help, and if they continue to commit violent acts, to get them off the streets.”

As part of its efforts, Changing Together gathers offenders together in a call-in, and has them listen to representatives from law enforcement, social service agencies, and the local community.

“They explain the damage their actions are doing, they also hear a message from the community members: it’s a two-pronged message,” Lamb says. After the message, they’re offered services in an effort to stabilize their situation.

The program is part of an overall “focused deterrence” strategy based on tactics developed by criminologist David M. Kennedy and known as the High Point Model. It seeks to single out the worst offenders, focusing both rehabilitation services and increased sanctions on them. As the program continues, the APD sends updated crime data to John Jay College, who recommend a particular approach based on the problems a given area is facing. The approach is aimed at pulling all the available “levers” the criminal justice system and various agencies to deter specific criminals. Its success in a number of areas around the country led to the APD and other local agencies trying to implement a local variation last year.

The first call-in was conduced in late 2011, focusing on 14 individuals involved in gang activity in the area. After that call-in, gang-related incidents declined so the second call-in, on March 22, shifted its focus to 19 individual violent offenders.

If the individuals re-offend, they go through the regular process if it’s a misdemeanor or nonviolent offense. But if they commit a violent offense, they “face more resources and an expedited effort to bring them to justice,” Lamb notes.

“Should they choose to continue on a violent path, law enforcement agencies, through a coordinated information-sharing network, will make every effort to ensure that notified offenders receive the most severe sentencing under the law,” an official statement from the APD on the program reads.

At least three of the individuals involved at the March call-in have since re-offended. One, Antonio Dwight Boseman, Jr., 20, is still wanted for felony assault by strangulation, and the APD has asked the public for information about his whereabouts.

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