CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte police are still trying to determine who opened fire at a block party on Beatties Ford Road last summer, leaving nine people shot.
The area has been a hot-spot for crime for some time, but the City of Charlotte is preparing to take a new approach to help stop the violence there.
The program is called “Cure Violence,” and its goal is to make neighborhoods in crime hot spots safer by preventing offenses.
Greensboro is one of two other cities in North Carolina that is already using the program.
Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos traveled there to see firsthand how the program works.
“We’ve had to duck bullets. We lost a friend right in front of my sister’s house on the sidewalk,” said Ingram Bell.
Bell grew up in Greensboro and lives in Smith Homes Apartments, the city’s largest public housing facility. It’s also a hot bed for violence. Her 14-year-old son was killed near the complex, and now she’s trying to stop crime from overtaking her hometown.
Bell is the program manager for Gate City Coalition, a local nonprofit hired to implement the Cure Violence program.
The program’s mission is to interrupt violence, prevent future violence and change the norms.
Bell said they’re doing this by hiring people who know the streets best, such as influencer Legrand Roseborough.
Roseborough said his street credibility allows him to connect with the residents.
“Not only do you have your peers trying to kill you, but you’re doing illegal activity every day, so if the cops catch you as well, your life is over,” he said.
Michael Henry said the program helped him land a job and get back in school.
“I was either going to be in jail or dead, so they took me off the streets and helped me,” he said.
It’s that kind of help that has the city’s assistant manager Nathaniel Davis believing the program will make a difference.
Davis is a former police officer. He’s watched the city’s murder rate increase, hitting a historic peak last year with 61 homicides.
“Policing is definitely not the only solution,” he said.
The Cure Violence program is costing Greensboro close to $400,000 a year, but Davis thinks it’s worth it.
“Some people look at the dollars. I look at the live lost,” he said.
According to Bell, since her team started working last year in the Smith Homes neighborhood and Martin Luther King Street corridor, they’ve helped cut crime
Only one of the city’s 61 homicides in 2020 happened there.
“In our target area we have decreased crime 50%,” she said. “We guaranteed them a 2% decrease and we gave them a 50% decrease.”
Bell’s small staff works to be visible on the streets. They walk the streets daily, talking to residents listening to their concerns and identifying conflicts.
She said they work to defuse conflicts before they turn violent, and they connect people to resources such as employers who will hire someone with a criminal record.
They also help residents enroll in school or training programs.
Bell thinks the program can work in any city.
“Reach out to those who can make a difference. Become vested in your community. Think about making your life, your kid’s life, a better way to live,” she said.
The program is supposed to launch in Charlotte this spring.
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