When you think of charitable work in the community, what comes to mind? At-risk youth, hunger, housing, seniors, education, access to health care? All worthy causes.
What about helping violent crime offenders?
Jim Summey wants us all to stop and think about that.
Summey is a former pastor and the current Executive Director of High Point Community Against Violence (HPCAV), a community grass-roots organization that began in 1997.
Nearly 30 years ago, as a Baptist pastor, Summey would often confront drug dealers and prostitutes in the area of the church he served, telling them they were welcome to come to the congregation for worship, help, or just to be somewhere besides the street. The prostitutes seemed to often appreciate an offer of help but the drug dealers took it as a threat to their business. This didn’t go over very well and responses were often violent. Summey admits it was the start of a long learning process.
Today, Summey and HPCAV head up an initiative that takes a more practical approach. The new effort still calls out (exposes) the criminal behavior, but now it also promises work and a new start on life. HPCAV has enrolled violent offenders from the community in a unique apprenticeship program to learn building trade skills on-the-job. It’s an approach that HPCAV developed from the ground up and has tested and refined over the years, in the early days unfunded, now supported and grasped by the greater community.
HPCAV will use its Community Impact Grant from the High Point Community Foundation to expand the program.
For many years, HPCAV has worked alongside the High Point Police Department utilizing every effort possible to reduce violent crime in High Point. With Summey added as full-time Executive Director to maintain operations on a daily basis beginning in 2009, HPCAV kept a finger on the pulse of violent crimes and focused on the actual offenders who are the perpetrators of violence.
The initial program proved that men can transition from violence to no violence, to training them to work, by teaching hard and soft skills for life management and pointing them toward independence and self-sufficiency.
HPCAV has established a partnership with licensed contractor Ed Kimsey who teaches carpentry and woodworking skills in HPCAV’s self-contained shop. Kimsey selects apprentices to go out on jobs in the community where they’re expected to be on time and ready to work.
For this particular grant, we tested it last year utilizing a smaller group to see what it would be. It was a concentrated effort of training and encouragement and we did see improvement and full-time employment. —Jim Summey
Once program participants were identified they were given strict warnings in a public meeting that they must stop the violence and that consequences will be swift. However, help was assured through HPCAV.
This way of police and community working together is called Focused Deterrence Policing (focusing on the real people causing the real problems).
The Community Impact Grant will allow HPCAV to offer the program to help 30 former offenders learn job skills.
HPCAV is helping to erase excuses and give former criminals a reason to take another look at a better way of living.
The program’s success rate so far is 84%. While that still means 16% recidivism, Summey believes it can become even more effective. The Community Impact Grant will go a long way toward achieving this goal.
“Once you pinpoint the people causing the problem and you confront those people with the truth about what they’re doing, everything must change at that point,” said Summey. “But when they walk away, they know they’ve been found out and do behave differently. We expose the behavior and say we don’t like what you’re doing, but we also say we care about you. That’s what we do first.”