That’s how many homicides Greensboro has clocked this year as of July 7.

Nine of those deaths were committed by the victim’s family, partner, ex-partner or were partner-related. Four were caused by complete strangers. Fourteen were committed by acquaintances and another nine were unknown/other.

On July 7, Greensboro Police Chief John Thompson held a briefing on the uptick in violent crime this year. Weekly violent crime data for the city can be found on the city’s website here. Thompson’s call to action signaled for community organizations to work with the police department to try to quell the violence.

Last year, the city only saw 41 homicides in total, Thompson said. In 2021, GPD counted 51 homicides according to data collected by the FBI. In 2020, the city clocked 59 homicides. 

Thompson said that the types of homicides and how they occur vary, and that the department doesn’t have all of the options, tools or resources “to address some of these categories.”

Thompson said that they are “looking at homicides,” the impact that they have on the community, and where they hope to make an impact as a police department. 

“We want the community to step forward and assist the police department to try to address this horrible trend in what we’re seeing with homicides.”

Thompson said it’s particularly difficult for the police department to stop crimes caused by family members or partners. 

“We don’t police inside people’s homes,” he said. “We don’t police family relationships.

“As a police department, we cannot solve the epidemic of violence alone,” he added. “As a community, you cannot solve the epidemic of violent crime alone. The only way this works is if the community and the police department partner together.”

Council member Goldie Wells represents District 2. She noted that 13 of the homicides have taken place in her district. Of the 36 homicide victims, 18 were Black males, 10 were Black females, five were white males, one was a white female, one was an Asian male and one was a Hispanic male.

Wells noted that both she and District 1 representative Sharon Hightower “serve the districts that are predominantly Black and Brown folks. They’re the people we serve. Those are the people that elected us to do what we could do to make their lives better.”

“We may not always want to talk about race, but in this instance it’s critical that we do,” Hightower said. District 1 saw 14 of the 36 homicides.

In Zack Matheny’s District 3, there were three homicides. In District 4 — represented by Nancy Hoffmann — there were two. Tammi Thurm’s District 5 saw four.

Part of the police department’s effort to curb violent crime is the city’s new Office of Community Safety which has employed a full-time violence-prevention coordinator. 

While police department’s often point to the fact that they are understaffed, it’s unclear whether an increase in police presence deters violent crime.

GPD gets more take-home cars

To curb violent crime, GPD and the city want to enhance police visibility throughout the community. Earlier the same day, 10 brand-new, take-home police vehicles were issued to officers in the department.

In November 2021, the city began implementing a police take-home vehicle program and since then, city council has approved multiple purchases for police vehicles for the program. The 10 rolled out last week are the first in the program to be issued after supply-chain issues held up the process. 

The first round of funding in 2021 allowed for the purchase of the first 20 vehicles to the tune of $1.16 million. Another 20 vehicles will be purchased this month according to a June 6 city document, totaling 60 cars for the program. Last month, city council approved the purchase of 24 replacement police cars.

“We have several more that are in the process of being set up, and several more waiting to be set up,” Thompson said. “Our goal is to maybe have another seven to 10 out by the end of August.” Thompson added that “hopefully” by December they will have all 40 vehicles distributed to officers.

According to the city’s website, GPD patrol officers do not currently have the option of taking their vehicles home — only certain specialized units such as detectives, school resource officers, vice/narcotic officers, K-9s, police neighborhood resource center officers and community resource team officers have that option. As for who will receive these new take-home cars, Officers in surrounding municipalities such as Winston-Salem are assigned their own cars, and if they live within 60 miles of downtown, they may drive them to and from work and off-duty employment.

GPD’s Public Information Manager Josie Cambareri said that “patrol officers who meet specific criteria” and some specialized units are being “given priority.”

One of the officers who received a take-home vehicle that day was OE Hudson. He previously had a take-home vehicle as he has worked in a couple different divisions, most recently as a school resource officer. But when he went back to patrol, things changed. 

“I’m used to having personal take-home cars,” Hudson said. Since being assigned his new take-home vehicle, Hudson said, “It’s a good feeling to have that.”

“We don’t want to lose our ‘competitive edge’ against High Point, Winston-Salem and Burlington, where this practice is already in place,” Vaughan said in a statement last week.

 During a June 6 council meeting, council members approved a contract modification between GPD and the public safety technology company Axon in the amount of $703,049.52 to acquire additional in-car cameras that will complete the setup of the first 60 vehicles in the police take-home vehicle program.

GPD entered into a five-year contract with Axon in September 2021 to provide body-worn and in-car cameras as well as other equipment.

Upfitting the police cars with all the required gadgets also slowed down the process, Lt. KB Johnson said.

“Then when we finally got them in, you’re using vendors to upfit them — and then that vendor’s got a supply chain issue.”

Assistant City Manager Larry Davis noted on June 6 to council members that the city intends to order “both replacement and take-home vehicles” next year.During the November 2021 presentation to council by former Greensboro Police Chief Brian James, James noted that patrol cars “typically last about three and a half to four years,” adding that cars that are assigned to a police officer last around eight years. James also mentioned that take-home cars would help reduce the loss of work time incurred by officers having to load and unload equipment from their personal vehicle to the patrol vehicle at the beginning and end of a shift.

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