• N.C. Crime Commission Grants released.
By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
Three agencies in Harnett County have received extra money from the North Carolina Crime Commission.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced grants totaling $73 million have been awarded across the state, with Harnett County getting just over $139,000 divided between the district attorney, sheriff’s office and Project S.A.F.E. The largest grant was given to the Harnett and Lee County District Attorney’s Office for use in prosecuting domestic violence cases. The District 11A Unified Domestic Violence Prosecution Team 2017 received $105,834.96 to prosecute domestic violence cases in both counties covered by the office.
Harnett and Lee County District Attorney Vernon Stewart told The Daily Record the money will be used to fund two new positions in his office.
“We’re going to hire a prosecutor who only deals with cases that have domestic violence-related issues,” Mr. Stewart said. “We’ll also hire an assistant who will concentrate on assisting with prosecutions. That will be a 30-hour a week position. They will work in both Harnett and Lee County.”
The new prosecutor won’t be limited to just domestic violence cases themselves, but all cases with any connection.
“There may be other prosecutors who are involved in the case because of the nature of the offenses involved,” he said. “But if there’s a domestic violence relationship, then the new prosecutor will be involved.”
Just as it sounds, the new position will be specialized and won’t have the burden of moving from one court to another.
“It allows one person to concentrate on domestic violence cases without dividing their attention in multiple courts,” Mr. Stewart said. “It also frees up other prosecutors who might otherwise be spending time in domestic violence court.”
Currently the District 11A office has 13 prosecutors, so any additional manpower will be a bonus in several ways.
In addition to adding another prosecutor to the ranks, it will afford victims a little more consistency during the process of prosecuting cases. “It’s a significant building block for the victims,” he said. “They will have the same administrative assistant and they will deal with the same prosecutor from court term to court term.”
It will also afford more familiarity with the defendants as well. He said having prosecutors as familiar as possible with repeat offenders is nothing but a plus for both the victim and his office.
“You never want to have repeat offenders obviously,” Mr. Stewart See Grants, Page 3
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said. “You also have to make sure the next time that person is in court the prosecutor is well aware of those with repeat offender status.”
He said consistent knowledge combined with a lower caseload will be a plus.
“We can always do a better job of identifying repeat offenders,” he said. “Many times the prosecutors are overwhelmed with cases, so the new prosecutor will help do a better job of identifying them, its always good to have another set of eyes.”
Mr. Stewart said the citizens of both counties will reap the rewards of the grant. “We’re very thankful to the Crime Commission for the grant money,” he said. “The service to the public will be much better and the new prosecutor will be a benefit to the citizens of Harnett and Lee County.”
The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office received a $12,000 grant to assist with upgrades to the security system at the Harnett County Courthouse.
According to sheriff’s Maj. Gary McNeill, the money will be used to add additional “panic buttons” to areas throughout the building.
“We already have a panic button system in place,” he said. “This will help us to upgrade it and put panic buttons in more locations.”
The purpose of the system is to alert the 911 call center when a situation arises in the courthouse where additional deputies are needed.
“When the call is received in the 911 center it alerts us to dispatch enough people to the area to handle the situation,” Maj. Mc-Neill said. “They will be placed in key locations and will make it a safer courthouse.”
Maj. McNeill said the project should be completed and operational by the end of fall or early this winter.
The final grant awarded in Harnett County went to S.A.F.E. of Harnett County for the Harnett Sexual Assault Services Program 2017.
The agency received $21,751 to be used to assist victims.