There was no good news to report at the Greensboro City Council Monday, Dec. 7 work session on violent crime.
Police Chief Brian James reported that so far in 2020 Greensboro has had 57 homicides compared to 45 in all of 2019 and 40 in 2018.
At the current rate Greensboro will have over 60 homicides in 2020.
James compared Greensboro to two cities, Winston-Salem and Durham. Both are smaller, but Durham is not far behind with a population of 283,000 compared to 300,000 for Greensboro.
Winston-Salem with a population of 252,000 has had 25 homicides this year and in 2019 had 28 homicides. Durham has had 32 homicides this year and had 38 in 2019. Neither of those cities has had the surge in homicides that Greensboro has experienced.
Some councilmembers have explained the increase in homicides in Greensboro this year as part of a national trend, but if that is true then Durham and Winston-Salem have both managed to avoid that trend.
The City Council’s solution to the uptick in homicides in recent years was to contract with One Step Further in 2019 to run a Cure Violence program in the Martin Luther King Jr. and Smith Homes neighborhoods. The executive director of One Step Further is Councilmember Yvonne Johnson. The City Council last month voted to renew the contract with One Step Further for $399,000 to run the program for another year, even though the statistics show that Cure Violence has not reduced homicides in the only two areas that it operates. In 2019, the City Council spent $500,000 to get the Cure Violence program started and run it for the first year.
So far in 2020 there have been 1,895 aggravated assaults, which includes 1,309 assaults with firearms; both figures show a significant increase from 2019.
James noted that he had reorganized the GPD to concentrate on violent crime and was using the time that in a normal year officers would be in court to put more officers into neighborhoods.
He said they had increased the monitoring of people on pre-trial release who are required to wear a monitor and from that had found several people wearing monitors at the scene of violent crimes.
James noted that the last time the number of sworn officers was increased was 2011 and said, “We need to fund a staffing study for the Police Department.”
Councilmember Justin Outling said that it was at a meeting almost a year ago “that it was identified that a staffing study was desired.”
City Manager David Parrish said that the staffing study got lost in the COVID-19 issues.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “If the police chief feels we have these immediate needs, how can we make them immediately done?”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower suggested that a community crime task force be created.