Gun Violence On Burke Street Stirs Action

Today’s Burke Street is a lovely little avenue of bars, restaurants, and shops bordering the West End and West Salem neighborhoods. Before Urban Renewal, the eastern portion of Burke Street was an African American pocket neighborhood. United Metropolitan traces its roots back to Burke Street and Brookstone Avenue. In recent years luxury apartments have been built adjacent to Burke Street. So it’s little wonder that Burke Street has the Mayor’s attention.

Recent gun violence on Burke Street has forced local leaders to act. The breakthrough at the Millenium Center meeting on Thursday was Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough’s pledge to use his deputies to help patrol DTWS.

The Winston-Salem Police Department has a massive shortage of officers. Assistant City Manager Patrice Toney stated the WSPD did not have additional officers to increase its DTWS patrol downtown. But apparently, the Sheriff does have deputies to spare.

Of course, if the Lewisville and Clemmons, two affluent, predominantly White enclaves in Western Forsyth County, would fund their own police departments (the Kernersville option), then the Sheriff would have even more resources to devote to hot spots throughout Forsyth County. But don’t take my word on that. That’s essentially what County Manager Dudley Watts told a group of activists in 2021.

Ultimately, policing is not the solution. We need investments in education, job training, affordable housing, and healthcare. And we need gun control laws and demilitarization.

It’s unfair to blame Joines for gun violence in our city. A mayor can’t be blamed for the inaction of lawmakers on the state and national levels to address gun violence. But on the issue of gun violence, Joines’ devotion to Downtown Winston-Salem, above all other areas of Winston, is again on display.

You will recall that Joines attended the North East Ward Violence Meeting in early February. But the Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance President only spoke to the concerned citizens at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church for a little over three minutes before departing for another meeting with an undisclosed group.

By contrast, Joines was at Thursday’s downtown business owner meeting at the Millineum Center for the duration of the meeting. Joines didn’t skip out on the predominantly White crowd at the Millennium Center.

As the city is reeling from another fatal shooting on Burke Street recently, this is an excellent time to examine what Allen Joines said about gun violence in his 2023 State of the City address. Gun violence was the last topic that Joines mentioned at his annual State of the City Address. Joines was nearly 26 minutes into his 32-minute speech before he addressed gun violence.

The Mayor spoke about the City’s problems with leaf collection and changes to the City’s recycling program before he mentioned the life-and-death issue of gun violence. Joines described gun violence in Winston as typically “not random acts of violence.” Joines said that “victims generally knew the assailants…” But the two recent Burke Street homicides were random acts of senseless gun violence.

Joines’s bullet-point-filled, 32-minute speech was focused primarily on the business of Winston-Salem, not the bullets flying mostly in East Winston. Joines spoke about one development project after another without disclosing his public-private role in facilitating those developments. As both Mayor and President of the Winston-Salem Alliance, Joines is elected by the public but serves the powerful, secretive group that pays his salary. And remember, those who pay the fiddler call the tunes.

Joines on gun violence:

And then, finally, gun violence. This is an area that’s on everybody’s mind in Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro. Across the country, it’s an issue facing our country. We were feeling pretty good last year. We saw a 25 percent reduction in homicides, and then we kicked this year off, and we’ve already had 11 homicides compared to eight during the same time last year.

I think it’s important to note that the victims generally knew the assailant in that particular case. So it’s not random acts of violence. And our Police Department is working very, very hard. Our new Chief, William Penn, has indicated this will be one of his top priorities. Our Police Department already has a gang reduction task force. It has a violent crime task force. There’s a citizen group working as part of a gang reduction steering committee, one whose objective is to keep young people out of the gangs or maybe rescue young people from the gangs and keep them straight.

The police department is using amazing new technology to address these issues. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the real-time crime Center. That’s an amazing facility there tied into hundreds of cameras across the city that will give us real-time information. We have our shot spotter system that triangulates a gunshot going off and gives it real-time information to the police.

We joined the Triad ballistics and network to share information together at crime scenes and  that results with that is already resulting in a number of cases being solved because of that.

But we’ve all said this that you can’t police your way out of this situation, there must be a community-wide effort to work on this. For instance our police foundation has started a number of after school and summer athletic programs to give our young people alternatives. Programs in churches such as the Sunday school at Union Baptists where have the the kids and their parents going to taking some classes on Sunday morning that will bring them together.

Really excited about the Cure program that’s getting ready to crank up. We provided funds for that from the city’s budget. What we’re doing is hiring counselors to go into hot spots around the city sitting down with young people and others to say hey there are alternatives to dealing with anger or conflict rather than violence. And so I think that’s going to provide good dividends for us going forward. We started the BEAR program this year which is the behavioral evaluation and response team, which will send mental health professionals to calls where it’s obvious that a mental health professional is needed in those situations.

-State of the City, February 15, 2023

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