GASTONIA, N.C. — Counties in the Charlotte region are preparing for the December implementation of North Carolina's "Raise the Age" law, which will prevent 16 and 17-year-olds from automatically being charged with crimes.

North Carolina will be the last state in the country to make this change, which will take effect on December 1, 2019, after the General Assembly passed this law back in 2017.

Gaston County Police Sergeant Reggie Bloom said he and other school resource officers across the state spent the summer training on how to work with the new law.

"We're still there to do our job," Sgt. Bloom said. "[Crimes will] still be investigated by us, but if it can be handled by the school, then it would be handled in school."

Sergeant Bloom said officers will still have the power to arrest students who committed violent crimes, but the goal of the law is to steer children away from the court system if they commit minor offenses.

Studies showed students referred to the court system are more likely to not complete their education and commit more crimes.

Governor Roy Cooper and Chief Justice Cheri Beasley are pushing counties to create their own School Justice Partnership.

The partnerships are agreements between a county's school district, police department, juvenile justice department, and court system, and it'll dictate what role each will play in implementing this law.

"These young people are less likely to graduate from high school, more likely to repeat a grade in school and more likely to be later charged as an adult for more serious offenses," Chief Justice Beasley said. "Our courts must focus on making sure our young people are successful." 

For more information on the School Justice Partnership, click here.

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