ROBESON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Startling statistics of violent crimes continue to rise in Robeson County with 18 murders in just 8 months.
The most recent deadly shooting occurred on Cameo Road in Parkton, NC around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. Reginald Howard, 34, was found riddled with bullet wounds and later died at the hospital.
Earlier that day in another area of the county, 24-year-old Tamekia Owens was found dead in her mobile home. According to the Robeson County Sheriff's Office, she appeared to suffer a gunshot wound with blood surrounding her body on an air mattress in the home.
Representatives with the Sheriff's Office explain murder doesn't discriminate.
"It isn't limited to one race, one age group, one cultural group," said Major Anthony Thompson with the Robeson County Sheriff's Office.
The number of murders outside city limits but within Robeson County are quickly adding up. The North Carolina Department of Justice tracks crime statistics across the county.
Since 2011, crime continues to rise in Robeson County. Of the 98 counties in the state, Robeson County has the sixth-highest rate of violent crime with 9,117 criminal acts during the year of 2012.
In comparison, New Hanover County had 9,842 with nine murders. Durham County had 13,668 criminal acts (down from 14,652 the previous year) with 21 murders. Cumberland County had 21,183 with 31 murders, followed by Guilford County with 20,782 crimes and 28 murders. Mecklenburg County had the highest crime rate, reaching a total of 42,149 with 54 murders.
While crime continues to rise, a local professor is working to combat the issue by curbing violence in younger residents.
"There is a need because of the high rates of youth violence here in Robeson County. Especially with high rates of youths going into the juvenile detention center," explained Paul Smokowski, a research professor with UNC Chapel Hill.
Working with funding from the CDC, Smokowski has led the North Carolina Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence since 2010.
At this time, the program is wrapping up the intervention phase. It targets at-risk youth and their parents and teaches ways to curb violent behavior.
An additional program within the grant created a teen court program. Instead of sending kids directly to juvenile detention centers, the program works with them on skills such as public speaking and works to raise their self-esteem.
"We have seen good results, so far, for both children and parents. They are less aggressive and violent," said Smokowski.
He predicts the program helps save the county nearly $1 million.
"For each dollar put into the teen court program, we saved the county $3 for juvenile detention costs. It adds up to more than $700,000 in processing juvenile court cases alone," explained Smokowski.
While that program continues, law enforcement continues to do everything they can to prevent any type of crime from happening within the county.
Major Thompson said of the 18 murders this year, the majority of cases have led to arrests with a suspect behind bars.