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City Council calls for more crime prevention spending

City Council calls for more crime prevention spending
June 10
11:38 2021

There have been 15 homicides in Winston-Salem this year, compared to nine this time last year. In response to the rise in homicides, shootings, and other violent crimes, the Winston-Salem City Council is calling for the budget to include more funding for crime prevention initiatives and community youth programs.

The proposed $530.9 budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 was presented to members of the council during a public meeting last month. A breakdown of the proposed budget shows $380.4 million for operations, $110 million for capital, and $40. 5 million for debt service. Last week City Council had the opportunity to openly discuss the proposed budget for the first time and there were several different recommendations for programs to combat crime, including investments in education, prevention initiatives, a gun buyback program, SOAR, YouthBuild, and several other programs. 

Council Member James Taylor, who is publisher of The Chronicle, was the first to call for funding to combat the rise in crime when he called for an $400,000 increase in funding for the city’s SOAR (Successful Outcomes After Release) and YouthBuild programs. Taylor also mentioned the launch of a partnership between the Winston-Salem Police Department and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, while Mayor Allen Joines recommended adopting the Violence Interrupters Peace Initiative at a cost of $200,000. 

Violence Interrupters, INC is a data driven, violence reduction, research-based initiative that focuses on five components: community mobilization, public education, faith, leader involvement, and law enforcement participation, “… to anticipate and interrupt the transmission of high risk events and change the social norms and behaviors that perpetuate violence.” The program is currently based in Chicago. 

Mayor Tempore Denise “D.D.” Adams asked for additional funding for programing, mentorship stipends, and the need for recreation centers in high-crime areas like Piedmont Circle Apartments and Cleveland Avenue Homes. “These areas need a community center like now,” Adams stressed.

Adams also talked about the need for the city to invest in a Pre-K initiative. While education is usually handled by the county, Adams and others said it’s time the city got involved in preparing local students for the future. 

Councilmember Annette Scippio, who represents the East Ward, also spoke in support of more programming at recreation centers. She said she believes local recreation centers don’t offer programs that attract youth.

“Our recreation centers are not programming themselves to really be attractive to young people where they can come and learn skills, they learn games, they learn techniques,” Scippio continued. “The programming in our recreation department needs a lot of attention, along with the facilities themselves.” 

Councilmember Barbara Hanes Burke, who represents the Northeast Ward, requested that the city set aside $250,000 for prevention programs and conflict resolution for youth such as the YWCA Teen Court. She also suggested implementing a gun buyback program.

“I understand that we had a gun buyback program in the city some years ago and I’ve been talking with some of our officers and I’ve been told that it was quite successful,” Hanes Burke continued. “We know that the more guns we get off the streets … we know those are guns that can’t be possibly used to commit any kind of crime.”

Citizens had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the proposed budget last week as well. During a virtual public forum citizens had three minutes to talk about the proposed budget.

The Winston-Salem City Council will adopt the budget during the meeting on Monday, June 21. The 2021-2022 proposed budget can be view by visiting https://www.cityofws.org/175/Budget or by visiting the city’s website. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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