Winston-Salem city leaders call for end to ‘code of silence’ in wake of increase in homicides

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The city of Winston-Salem has experienced 14 homicides so far in 2016, and with two of them considered “justified,” 12 are categorized as murders.

“The summer of 2016 officially began yesterday. But, we are already approaching the number of homicides that occurred in all of 2015,” said Assistant Chief Catrina Thompson, of the Winston-Salem Police Department.

However, community members who have direct knowledge of what happened during those murders have provided little to no information regarding them to police.

“We can’t expect for black lives to matter to white folk if black lives don’t matter to black folk,” said Bishop Todd Fulton, president of the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity.

“We will not tolerate our community being turned over to violence,” he said.

The Ministers Conference, along with several members of the police department, teamed up to hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon, to speak out against what they call a “code of silence.”

“However deep seeded that code of silence is, we’re saying it’s time for a mind shift. A change in thinking, a change in attitude,” said Rev. Alvin Carlisle.

Carlisle said along with the code of silence, there is a fear of retaliation and many experience a distrust of police, which “bleeds over into non-cooperation with law enforcement.”

Police say two of the murders are unsolved, but even those which are solved continue to be investigated.

“At the end of the day, all we want to do is to do our job, and in order to do it effectively, we need the assistance of our community,” Thompson said.

Police want to remind citizens that Crimestoppers, which can be reached at (336) 727-2800, is completely anonymous. Plus, the Ministers Conference is offering an alternative.

“If you’re not comfortable calling the police department or going to the police department, call the Minister’s Conference. We will be your voice until you find yours,” Fulton said.

They also say the next step for preventing future violence preceded Tuesday’s press conference. A community meeting held by Council Member James Taylor resulted in a plan of action, which is already being implemented. Mayor Allen Joines said $50,000 has been set aside in this year’s budget for the Successful Outcomes After Release program, or SOAR, where people can apply for money by providing specifics with where it would go. Another $50,000 was set aside for summer youth programs. Joines said other recommendations were made which have not yet been dealt with.

In addition, the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity said on June 30, they will award $11,000 for students to go to college.

“Not to end up in jail, not to end up in a grave,” Fulton said. “What’s next? We’re going to take our kids back.”