Educating North Carolina’s Kids about Gun Violence

Monday, October 28, 2019 - 10:09am

All too often, we find news media covering tragic shootings in communities across the nation. Senseless gun violence has become a part of everyday dialogue in American society. But some positive efforts of dedicated people working within Juvenile Justice are ongoing to educate kids and keep North Carolinians safer.

The Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) recently trained 10 staff members of the Cumberland Juvenile Detention Center (CJDC) certifying them to teach youths about gun violence. The program, Educating Kids About Gun Violence (EKG), was developed and first implemented in 2014-15 by the prosecutor’s office in Marion County, Indiana.  The success that fledgling program generated helped spread the program to other towns around the country. CJDC Director Gene Hallock worked with FPD Chief Gina Hawkins and program coordinator Lisa Jayne to provide the training for his team. With several officers completing the two-part training program, the Cumberland County facility became the first juvenile facility offering this program to youth.

The optional EKG training is available only for law enforcement officers, which includes those certified as juvenile justice officers. Once certified as an EKG trainer, staff incorporate video, photographs, case studies and more into this two-hour interactive presentation that teaches the medical and legal consequences of gun possession and gang- and gun-related violence, while discussing positive alternative choices they can make. “We had a dozen staff volunteer for the training,” stated Hallock. “Having them certified helps to bring another solid program into our facility to educate kids about the dangers connected to gun violence.”

“This professional development training helps to build rapport between the facility staff and our officers,” explained Hawkins. “We also hope by having more people certified (to offer this program) in Cumberland County, we can continue building a dialogue with the community.” 

The goals of those involved in this program are to:

  1. Equip students with the knowledge necessary to make better decisions than picking up and using weapons;
  2. Lower gun-related violence in our neighborhoods; and
  3. Reduce the likelihood that students will become involved in gun-related crimes after transitioning back to their communities.

Youth Counselor Technician Jerry Williams plans to provide this training to the students at CJDC every other month. “We hope students become more aware of their surroundings after completing this training,” he said. “Being in situations where a weapon may be used should decrease.”  

Since initiating this program in 2014, the Fayetteville Police Department has taught this program to 25,000 area middle school and high school students. Research indicated Cumberland County have realized a 10% drop in violent crime and the department believes genuine interactions with the officers is a positive outcome.

Those who work every day with North Carolina’s at-risk or justice-involved youth have offered a great deal of praise thus far. The benefits of this program was a topic for one of the breakout sessions during the mid-October Raise the Age planning conference in Winston-Salem, and garnered a high level of interest among participants. In fact, several expressed interest in bringing the training to other districts/counties around the state

Matt Jenkins, Communications Officer