‘Transit Talk’: Winston-Salem Police Department pilot program aims to build community trust on city buses

Piedmont Triad News

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Winston-Salem Police Department leaders hope a new pilot program will help them in the fight to reduce crime and build community trust in the city. 

On Monday evening, Assistant Chief William Penn Jr. boarded the Route 87 for the department’s first Transit Talk: a chance for officers to have face to face conversations with the public. 

“One of the unique things about me, I’m from this city. As we’re boarding the bus, I just saw one of my classmates,” he said, introducing himself to passengers. 

The city has experienced a recent spike in gun violence with 16 gun related deaths so far this year. He discussed the trends officers are seeing firsthand in Winston-Salem neighborhoods. 

“As you guys can imagine, the pattern and trend is the drive-by shootings,” Penn said. 

He also noted the solutions investigators are using to find the shooters responsible. 

“We have machines that process gunshot rounds just like fingerprints,” he said. 

Passengers raised concerns about response times in certain areas of the city and asked about a possible gun buyback program to get more guns off the street. 

“That’s a really good long term strategy. What we’ve got to have (is) our people feel safe…also our kids have to have something to do,” Penn said. 

The number one concern was reaching the city’s children, not teenagers, before they get involved in violence. 

“Our future is not on me and you,” one man said to the assistant chief. “We’ve got to put more productive things for them. Once they reach twelve years old, you’re out of luck.” 

After about an hour, the bus returned to the station. Penn said the program will help build trust in the community. 

“We can’t rest on that. All it takes is one bad incident, and we lose ground, so we have to keep pushing ahead, pushing and pushing,” he said. 

Transit Talks will be held quarterly. 

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