Association of Prosecuting AttorneysJune 05, 2012
North Carolina District Attorney Utilizing Community-Based Prosecution to Increase Witness Participation
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - It's a phenomenon going on in Wilmington, and around the country: the "stop snitching" culture, where victims and witnesses don't come forward to report crimes to police or prosecutors, but instead seek justice on their own out on the streets. New Hanover County's District Attorney's office is using a novel approach to stop that, and their Community-Based Prosecution initiative is garnering praise from some very high places. That's why the new Hanover county DA's office has recruited help from people like Amelia Martin. Her son, Ron, a 19-year-old college student, was beaten to death near downtown Wilmington in a case of a mistaken identity. Amelia grew up in the Taylor Homes housing project, and understands why some communities don't trust the system to bring them justice. After her son's death, no one would come forward to help put his killers behind bars. But Amelia pushed for answers, people finally started helping authorities, and eventually, the suspects were arrested and convicted for murder. Now, Amelia serves as a liaison for the DA's office, helping victim's families, and letting the community know it's OK to talk. "We are here to help them, and they can come to us at all times," she said. She's the one at the DA's office who contacts victim's families after someone has been murdered. She goes to the courthouse with them, even to funerals. Ben David says it's not just about prosecution; it's about prevention. From a very young age, David says he can predict which kids will become wrapped up in the criminal justice system. That's why his office has also started a number of initiatives aimed at mentoring at-risk kids, and keeping them in school.