The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is headed for a high-profile showdown on Thursday, June 6 with a vote that pits advocates of a new Cure Violence program in Greensboro against those who think the program is not the best way to address the increase of violent crime in the city.
The anti-violence initiative, which got its start in inner-city Chicago before expanding to other cities, uses ex-felons and others often with a criminal past to go into high-crime areas of cities and dissuade potential perpetrators from murder and other violent crimes.
The proposed plan calls for the City of Greensboro and Guilford County to split the roughly half-million dollars in startup costs for the first year of the program and get it operational in select high-crime areas in Greensboro. The proposal now on the table calls for Guilford County to use money from the county’s jail system’s Inmate Welfare Fund, which is raised largely from fees on collect phone calls made by inmates at the jail. Of course, for that to happen, at least five of the nine commissioners would have to approve the Cure Violence funding.
The item is on the county commissioners meeting agenda for a Thursday, June 6 vote. Ordinarily, that would be a good sign for advocates because most high-profile items don’t end up on the agenda unless there’s enough support to pass them. However, in this case, the item was included at the insistance of Commissioner Skip Alston – a strong advocate for Cure Violence but also a member of the Democratic minority that doesn’t get to make the calls.
Alston said that Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Alan Branson only included the item on the agenda this week “reluctantly” because he, Alston, insisted.
“I told him that, if he didn’t put it on there, I would bring it up under new business,” Alston said, adding that any commissioner can always include what he or she wants on the agenda.
Alston said he’s hopeful that all the Democrats and at least one Republican will vote for the county to fund Cure Violence.
“I hope they will take the politics out of it and look at saving lives,” Alston said.
He said that if the program saves just one life it would be worth it. He added that he knows this isn’t the be all and end all for the problem of violence but he said it would be a start.
“Right now we are doing nothing, and something is better than nothing,” he said.
The opponents of the program say they also want to reduce violence but add that the program causes liability issues, has a number of question marks and has not yet proved itself as an effective solution to the problem.