The target community is the most racially diverse rural community in the United States (U.S.). Located in south-central North Carolina (NC) and bordering South Carolina, this county has been one of the 10% of U.S. counties that are majority-minority since 2004. The combined populations of American Indian, African American, and Latino residents make up over 68% of the total population of 129,123 people. In 2007, the child population (ages 0 to 17) was 39% Native American, 27% African American, 22% White, and 11% Latino.
As a result of massive job loss, poverty in Robeson County rose an alarming 44% between 2000 and 2005, increasing from 22.8% to 34.7% of the population. This compares to a poverty rate of 13% for the U.S. and 15% for NC during that time. The county ranks as the third poorest, mid-size county in the nation.
Out of North Carolina’s 100 counties, Robeson County ranked first in Juvenile Arrest Rate (per 100,000 for 2004). This juvenile arrest rate of 16,064 for Robeson County was higher than the major metropolitan areas in NC (by comparison, the 2004 juvenile arrest rate in Guilford County, which includes Greensboro, was 10,683; juvenile arrest rates for Wake County, which includes Raleigh, Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, Forsyth County, which includes Winston-Salem, and Durham County were all smaller). Further, Robeson County’s juvenile arrest rate increased to 18,457 in 2005, and 17,809 in 2006. Indeed, the delinquency rate per 1,000 children ages 6 to 15 in Robeson County in 2008 was 43.31—higher than the rate for NC as a whole (31.52), Wake County including Raleigh (21.09), Mecklenburg County including Charlotte (29.38), and Forsyth County including Winston-Salem (23.5). Kids Count data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that Robeson County is consistently in the top ten counties (out of 100) in North Carolina for the number of juveniles with complaints approved for violent crimes, juveniles with complaints approved for court, and the number of complaints against juveniles (see Figure 2; http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate).
The Robeson County youth death rate of 123.6 is nearly double the state’s rate of 74.7. The county’s homicide rate of 23.9 is more than triple the state’s average of 7.2 for 2004-2008. The population-based mortality rate for violent crime among all ages in Robeson County from 2003 to 2007 was 10.5 which was the third highest in NC and significantly above NC’s overall rate of 6.8. Furthermore, these rates for Robeson County have been consistently elevated since 1994. During the 2008-09 school year, Robeson County Schools reported 211 incidents concerning behavioral problems that were serious (e.g., possession of a controlled substance or a weapon, assault, rape). This was the fourth highest total in NC, slightly behind major metropolitan areas with much larger populations. This is very strong evidence that Robeson County is at high risk for youth violence; risk exceeding that for youth in urban areas, such as Durham, Raleigh, and Greensboro, NC.