Winston-Salem police leaders react to White House gun violence strategy

Piedmont Triad News

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — As President Joe Biden unveiled a new strategy to combat a rise in gun violence nationwide, Winston-Salem Police Department leaders say a holistic approach is needed.

“We’ve seen the community really want to focus on prevention,” said Assistant Chief William Penn Jr, after reading the proposal announced Wednesday.

Part of the strategy involves cracking down on gun dealers who break the law and removing ghost guns made in homes that are impossible to trace.

“A lot of times we’ve heard outcry that the folks who are supplying drugs or guns, they get a free pass while the folks who are utilizing them are spending time in prison so hopefully that’s a step in the right direction,” Penn said.

He explained the department has already implemented some of the proposed changes. WSPD has a dedicated team working with the National Ballistic Information Network.

“We have a full-time team now that utilizes the NIBIN machine, and what it does is it actually does is reinforce the belief that there are few bad characters in our communities committing most of these shootings,” Penn said.

The plan includes more funding for hiring under the American Rescue Plan, which could help the department fill 50 open positions.

“It means they’re working hard, it means not a lot of time to catch your breath when you’re running from violent crime to violent crime, it’s a very difficult time for them,” Penn said.

Penn said he would like to see counseling offered for families continuously impacted by violence.

“I was struck when going through one of our debriefings recently and we started talking about the names of the people who are around the violent crimes and what we found is that some of these people have been around several shootings several homicides, and the trauma that brings if it’s not dealt with, I think it further perpetuates the problem,” he said.

The police department is also considering adding a youth summer hiring program, but it hasn’t been formed yet.

Greensboro police are part of a similar initiative that provided jobs to more than 100 teens.

Winston-Salem does offer a Youth Citizens’ Police Academy.

You can learn more about the program here.

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