GREENSBORO, N.C. — Stopping violence before it starts. That’s the goal of Greensboro’s Cure Violence initiative. The city council just voted to extend and fund the program with an additional $399,000 through 2021.
“A lot of times when someone hurts someone you love, you want to retaliate,” Councilwoman Yvonne Johnson said.
It’s that urge for revenge that Johnson says causes a lot of the gun violence in Greensboro.
“We want them to see another way to be. Another way to act. Another way to think about things,” Johnson said.
She oversees the initiative that began last January. The program focused on the Martin Luther King Jr. corridor and Smith Homes. A team of seven staff members serve as violence interrupters.
They walk the streets and get to know the people in neighborhoods where gun violence and homicides are common.
“Cure Violence has been a much-needed addition to the number of things that we need in our city to be able to address violent crime,” Assistant City Manager Trey Davis said.
Former gang members are on staff working as mediators. After a shooting, they’ll meet family members at the hospital or in the community to calm them down and encourage them to handle their anger in a different way.
“There have only been two homicides compared to the 54 across the city so I think that’s a great measure of success telling as to what the program has been able to accomplish. We’ve had over 1,500 shooting incidents in our city and there’s only a fraction of those that have occurred in those two target areas,” Davis said.
Davis spent many years responding to these areas while a captain of the Greensboro Police Department.
“The last couple of years we have seen an increase in gang activity. The ages are getting younger and younger and that is very concerning to us,” Davis said.
Johnson tells FOX8 cure violence also educates the people gangs appear to be going after these days.
“That’s what we want to stop. We want to stop any further violence,” Johnson said.
While the pandemic isn’t causing the spike in violence, Davis believes it might be contributing to it.
“For many of our high school and our middle school-aged students being virtual, we do have to factor in that our youth have more time on their hands.
“They may not be in structured environments like school so there may be less accountability,” Davis said.
Johnson tells FOX8 it’s time for Cure Violence to go beyond Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Smith Homes. This year they want to include Merritt Drive.
“We do all we can with young people to keep them out of gangs,” Johnson said.