Gang initiative targets violent offenders

Since it became active in 2010, the Catawba County Gang Initiative has targeted dozens of the area’s most violent offenders — the worst of the worst.

However, police aren’t sending them to jail. Instead, officers from all over Catawba County are giving these men and women a second chance — an opportunity to change their ways or get “fast-tracked” through the legal system.

“It’s not a soft approach on crime, it’s a different approach on crime,” said Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins. “It took me a long time to wrap my head around this, but it does actually work.”

So far, none of the program’s 39 targeted offenders have committed what officers call “trigger offenses,” or a list of personal, offensive, damaging and violent crimes.

Now, going into the program’s third year on the streets, the Gang Initiative is looking to take the resources it provides to another level, launching what it calls a “Success Essentials” employability skills series.

To read more of this story, pick up the Friday edition of Catawba County's community newspaper, The Observer News Enterprise, at newsstands throughout the county.