‘Transit Talk’ brings conversation on gun violence to the people

Last week Assistant Chief William Penn with the Winston-Salem Police Department used public transportation to talk to citizens about the rise in gun violence and get suggestions on what the police should do to combat the issue.

‘Transit Talk’ brings conversation on gun violence to the people
June 30
13:15 2021

Over the past few months there have been several meetings and press conferences about the rise in gun violence and other violent crimes in Winston-Salem. Earlier this week, Assistant Chief William Penn with the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) brought the meeting to the people with his “Transit Talk.”

Penn, who is a native of Winston-Salem, said he got the idea for Transit Talks one day while thinking about ways the department could improve community engagement. “I thought about the times of community meetings and city council meetings and I said, wow, people using public transportation and going back and forth from work, I can see how they could miss those opportunities to be heard. So I said, let’s take the conversation on the bus,” Penn said. 

On Monday evening, Penn used Route 87 to bring the conversation on gun violence to the people. As the bus traveled through the city, Penn talked about what the WSPD is doing to stop the violence and asked passengers what they thought the department should be doing. There were recommendations for a Scared Straight program as a means of deterring juvenile crime, a gun buy-back program, more programs for young people, community engagement programs and several other suggestions.

“We just want to let the people know what the police department is doing, have the discussion and based on what they tell us, we’ll take that back to the agency and use that information as we take our next steps,” Penn said. 

There have been 17 homicides in Winston-Salem this year, more than 60 aggravated assaults, and hundreds of shootings. When discussing the rise in violence here in Winston-Salem and across the country, Penn said the rise in violence is a result of a lot of social issues coming to a head. 

“What you’re looking at is a lot of social problems exploding on us,” Penn said. 

“COVID didn’t create this issue, but it exposed it. We have folks frustrated and choosing to resolve their conflicts with weapons and violent acts. So we have to come together as a community, we have to work through this. 

“We have to talk, we have to be engaged, and get all stakeholders to the table and find a way to combat this,” he said.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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