Reports of child abuse have risen continuously in Lincoln County over the past five years, and county agencies have developed a communication system to deal with them.
â€œWe donâ€™t want a child to have to go through three interviews with three agencies and have to relive the most horrible experiences of their lives over and over again,â€ said Tony Carpenter, a supervisor at the Department of Social Services (DSS).
The Child Abuse Task Force has meetings once a month to focus on such problems.
Representatives from the Sheriffâ€™s Office, Lincolnton Police Department, DSS and District Attorneyâ€™s office attend and discuss child abuse cases.
â€œItâ€™s just a tool to use,â€ said Brian Greene, a detective with the Lincolnton Police Department.
â€œIt gives us new ideas. It gives us their perspective on a case.â€
Locations of the meeting change monthly. The task force was started nearly three years ago.
â€œI think weâ€™ve finally got all the pieces together and try to meet more consistently,â€ said Carpenter.
For many, this meeting is the easiest way to get in touch with each other.
All those involved in the task force spend time outside the office, whether it is in court or investigating cases.
â€œEveryoneâ€™s on the run constantly,â€ said Kay Killian, an assistant district attorney. â€œYouâ€™re in and out so itâ€™s pretty difficult.â€
Members of the task force often set up times to discuss specific cases with each other.
Often the DSS and Sheriffâ€™s Department perform interviews in the same day.
â€œYou have to move quicker when the victims are children,â€ said Killian.
Those involved in the task force believe reports of child abuse have risen due to the public being better educated on the matter.
â€œKids are more open to talk, the schools are more aware,â€ said Lori Gillis, a child abuse investigator.
Carpenter believes that over the years people have become more willing to speak out against child abuse.
â€œItâ€™s always been there. People just didnâ€™t talk about it,â€ said Carpenter. â€œThey didnâ€™t want to be involved.â€
Actual cases of abuse may have also risen due to the economy, mental illnesses and alcohol and drug use.by Sarah Grano