GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — There have been 54 homicides to date this year in Greensboro, which is an alarming statistic and one the city’s Office Of Community Safety is frustrated to see.
The office opened one year ago this month, and while its leadership says they’re making strides against violence in Greensboro, the task is tall.
One of the biggest challenges for the office as well as the police department is dealing with mental health crises, and that’s an area the office says needs more support.
The violence this year has been hard to see.
“How do you look in the eyes of someone who has just lost a child or a significant other?” Greensboro Violence Prevention Coordinator Arthur Durham said.
Durham has seen the anger and fear following a homicide.
For a year, the department has worked with the police department and the community to stop violence before it starts.
“It’s been a lot, a lot of moving pieces. A lot of things are finally starting to take shape,” Office of Community Safety Manager Latisha McNeill said.
McNeill says the Behavioral Health Response Team and cops teamed up with crisis counselors, which has been very effective.
“When there’s a 911 call with a mental health component, they respond and address that situation,” McNeill said.
The team also follows up with resources for those in a mental health crisis.
“I have seen the community really get behind and support the efforts of an alternative response to law enforcement,” McNeill said.
They want to double the BHRT team to 14 members soon.
“I want them to grow. They need to grow. The city wants them to grow,” she said.
Their latest effort is the Community Violence Intervention and Interruption Project, which Durham will lead by training nonprofit community organizations on how to de-escalate conflict and reduce violence in Greensboro.
“They unconditionally commit to doing this work and making sure saving lives takes precedence, and that’s what we are looking forward to doing,” Durham said.
Both McNeill and Durham say the office’s programs will take time to make a big difference, but they are committed to doing the work.
“That dam can still burst, so what we want through the Office of Community Safety is to renovate the whole dam,” Durham said.
There is a request for proposals for nonprofits to get on board and learn to de-escalate conflict. It’s available through the end of October, and there’s a meeting to learn more about it on Oct. 5 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Peeler Recreation Center.
They’ll have people on hand to help give information about the RFP process and talk about funding and what’s expected.