Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) program in Rowan County is an effort to combat crime in the community. With the program’s revival, also comes a new PSN coordinator – Candace Edwards.
According to the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, “Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun and gang crime in America by networking existing local programs that target gun and gun crime and providing these programs with additional tools necessary to be successful.”
Success is the key word for Edwards. With more than 20 years of experience working with at-risk communities, ex-offenders and law enforcement, she continues to keep in touch with some of her success stories from her various positions with the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem and probation/parole in Forsyth County. Some of those “successes” have moved on from having fewer economic opportunities or engaging in negative behaviors and grown in to self-sufficient citizens with stable jobs, families and homes of their own.
Now, Edwards’ focus is on creating success in Rowan County by accessing and providing resources to ex-offenders who are identified through data-driven methods as likely to reoffend or be victims of gun violence. The program is intended to bring community resources in to play to lever the ex-offender toward a more successful life path by opening lines of communication between service providers, and developing strong relationships with community partners.
Her office, housed at the Salisbury Police Department, will be a central location for building a program for offenders to be able to find services like childcare, job assistance, training programs and maybe post-secondary education opportunities, if she can find the right grants.
A focus area for Edwards will be finding grant funding opportunities to support the program. “I’ve always been good at reading and interpreting federal regulations, laws and budgets,” she said. “I want to be able to identify those opportunities for our marginalized communities, some who may not even know that they need services.”
PSN first began in 2001 nationwide. The $2 billion that has gone in to its programming has been used to “hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide training, distribute gun lock safety kits, deter juvenile gun crime, and develop and promote community outreach efforts as well as to support other gun and gang violence reduction strategies.”
Just a little over a month in, Edwards has already hit the ground running. She has started collaborating with all four of the Community Action Teams; meeting with partner agencies, including probation and parole; and reviewing historical data from the previous model of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program. Soon, she will be meeting one-on-one with ex-offenders -- those currently on probation and those who have completed probation – who can benefit from support to continue on the straight and narrow.
“I am also able to offer a wholistic approach to support family member of those on my “list” by directing them to the appropriate community resources,” she added.
“I know Project Safe can make a difference,” said Edwards, a UNC-Charlotte graduate. “Sometimes people need an opportunity to provide a better quality of life for themselves and their children. Without proper parenting and/or modeling many of us could have gone down a similar path.”