After years of planning and research, Cure Violence began in Winston-Salem last week. The community-centered program based in Chicago utilizes a public health model to lower crime where it occurs most.
In 2021, deciding whether the program would be a good fit for Forsyth County meant visits by Cure Violence Global consultants to assess the area, analyzing police data to determine the best locations, developing a steering committee of city and county officials — judges, educators, law enforcement — to provide oversight and guidance, and establishing an implementing partner. That partner is Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, a nonprofit engaged in community environments, that vetted and hired staff members who will follow the Cure Violence model.
Assistant City Manager Patrice Toney says that model looks at crime as an infectious disease — something that can be cured with timely interventions by the right people.
"We’re using what we call 'violence interrupters' with lived experiences from this community and are able to affect behavior change, able to talk to people in these communities and kind of just see on the ground what’s going on pretty much at all times," says Toney.
The three-year pilot program, Forsyth WINS — Winston-Salem Intervention for Nonviolent Streets — will cost a half-million dollars annually, split between the city and county and paid for with American Rescue Plan Act money.
Monitoring its effectiveness in crime reduction will be the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Services. Toney says Forsyth WINS was launched with boots on the ground on August 1, and she hopes to see some initial data by early December.
Toney says with more than 100 sworn officer vacancies in city law enforcement, she’s hopeful Forsyth WINS can help reduce the workload of a department already stretched thin. To that end, she says, the city recently launched a similar hospital-based interruption program targeting patients who are victims of violence.
"They show up in the trauma centers and the ER and nine times out of ten they never talk to the police," she says. "They do know who shot them, they just don’t report. So, what’ll happen is the violence interveners are there in the trauma center. So when someone presents with the gunshot wound or the stab wound, they will go and talk to the patient."
Toney says there’s evidence showing that those conversations with a trusted community member can reduce retaliations. The Hospital-based Violence Interruption Program is funded through a $500,000 state grant.