Police response to kids traumatized by violence - | WBTV Charlotte

Police response to kids traumatized by violence

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police says violent crime this year has decreased by 6.5% compared to this time last year. But it's difficult to count how many people are traumatized by crime.

Children can be traumatized by crime they see in their homes and neighborhoods. Images like body bags being taken from a home can never be forgotten. That's why Charlotte Mecklenburg Police are expanding a program to help these traumatized kids recover.

Childhood is about experiencing and discovering new things. But there's certain experiences we wish kids didn't have to see.

"Our next door neighbors the whole family was murdered, the Grave family," Britannia Glover Thomas said, "All the kids saw the bodies being removed from the house."

Three years later Britannia Glover Thomas' twin girls are taking part in a family reunion at Veteran's Park. As their mom, she made sure they dealt with their mental health.

"So they had to speak to someone about that just to calm their nerves and put them at peace that they weren't in an area that's totally surrounded by violence," Glover Thomas said.

When trauma happens police are usually the first to respond. And CMPD has a program to help kids with it called Child Development Community Policing (CD-CP).

"Our folks are right there when the yellow tape is still up at the crime scene talking with the kids, talking with their parents trying to identify what those children are going through and address those symptoms," said Stacey Flaherty, CD-CP director.

Flaherty explains the types of cases they might respond to include young children left alone with the bodies of parents after homicides, or homicide/suicide type situations,  kids who have been safely strapped into car seats while a parent has been thrown through a windshield, children present when a sibling was playing with a gun and accidentally shot and killed themselves, domestic violence cases, robberies and home invasions.

"They associate us with something bad and this allows us to be a positive experience in their life," Officer Jessica Wallin said.

Officer Wallin said she remembers a time when she worked on patrol and CD-CP was needed after a home invasion for a little boy.

"I first responded to the scene, he was extremely quiet, very shy, hiding from us behind his mother, with good reason he just had a traumatic experience," Wallin said.

Wallin said after speaking with a child trauma specialist the boy opened up and started talking to the officers.

"We got all the data to show the impact if we don't do something we know what's going to happen," Deputy Chief Eddie Levins said, "It's our obligation to do something now."

"We're trying to put this together to find out what we can do more on the mental health side and how we can go out and intervene at the earliest possible point," Captain Rob Dance said.

Police said through CD-CP they respond to over 3,000 families a year. And the program is expanding with $700,000 county dollars.  People in the community can understand why.

"One little boy, I'll never forget said he lived with his mom because his dad was in jail for trying to kill his mom," said Joanna Richardson, a substitute teacher, "So, I know that's very needful for them to send out the trauma teams because children suffer so much in this day and age."

With CD-CP the hope is kids will be treated for that mental suffering.

Police say the CD-CP program is free of charge to the families they help.  Right now the program is in seven of thirteen patrol divisions. In the coming year, Hickory Grove Division and University Division will get the program. In the next three years it should be in all divisions. 

This year the county's expansion plan will pay for 2 supervisors, 6 clinicians, a research assistant and training specialist.

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