GREENSBORO — The Greensboro City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday to spend $500,000 this year on Cure Violence, an initiative that treats neighborhood violence like a disease epidemic.
The council voted to approve a contract between the city, Cure Violence, and the One Step Further nonprofit to bring the Chicago-based program to the Smith Homes area and the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive corridor. The money will come from the city's general fund balance.
People hired by the program will enter neighborhoods to "interrupt" violence between residents before it can start, leaders of the program have said.
“I’m sorry it has taken this long to put this program into effect," said Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who has been one of the most vocal supporters of the program. "This community needed this program months ago.”
Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson recused herself from the vote because she is executive director of One Step Further, which operates mediation and youth and family justice programs.
Council members had mixed emotions about supporting the program. Some said the narrow focus leaves them concerned about other neighborhoods that won't get new crime-fighting programs.
District 5 Councilwoman Tammi Thurm said she is concerned for all neighborhoods.
“We’re only targeting two neighborhoods. What happens to the third, fourth and fifth neighborhoods?” Thurm said. But she said inaction is not an option even though she worries that she is letting down her district in the western part of the city.
“We have to do something," she said. "It’s not just an east Greensboro problem. It’s a Greensboro problem.”
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the city is ravaged by violence.
“We are not going to let the people who are shooting up this city win. We are going to do it together and this is the first step,” she said.
Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann said religious traditions suggest that “if you save one life you have saved the world” and though the program has limitations, it is a worthy start for the city.
The council has been discussing the program for more than a year. City Council held a rare joint meeting with the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in the spring to talk about sharing the cost. But the commissioners tabled their part of the program.
Since then, Greensboro has suffered a summer and fall of violence, including a shooting death Tuesday that marked the 35th killing in Greensboro this year. That is only two fewer than all of 2018.
The council held a special meeting in September at the Windsor Community Recreation Center to listen to residents speak about gun violence and crime in the city. Nearly 20 people spoke and Cure Violence was mentioned again as an option to address the issue.
City Manager David Parrish said a contract for Cure Violence should be worked out between the city and the groups by the end of October and the program will begin implementation after that.
“This to me is just the beginning of this effort, long overdue, but it is here,” Hightower said.
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.