May 18—HIGH POINT — About 200 law enforcement officers, clergy and community volunteers from across the region came together in High Point on Wednesday to craft a response to criminal violence that regularly crosses city borders.
The participants in the inaugural Stop The Violence Summit want to make connections among people in High Point, Greensboro, Thomasville, Winston-Salem and the surrounding counties to counter violence in a comprehensive fashion. The organizers of the summit say criminals from one city commit violent acts in a neighboring city or have activities that stretch into multiple jurisdictions.
Criminals don’t respect municipal lines, the Rev. Brad Lilley told The High Point Enterprise prior to the start of the summit at Congdon Yards downtown.
“We want to stress the point that we all need to work together and address violence collectively,” said Lilley, the president of High Point Peacemakers, which was the primary organizer of the summit.
By making connections across cities in the Piedmont Triad, law enforcement and community advocates have a better chance to reduce levels of violent crime, organizers say.
One of the goals coming out of the summit is to set up a public awareness campaign that focuses on effective approaches to countering criminal violence. Another is to increase the visibility of groups addressing violence and foster more collaboration across city boundaries, said Carlvena Foster, vice chairwoman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
“The more people getting involved in this will help reduce the level of violence in the community,” she said.
High Point Police Chief Travis Stroud said, “The biggest effort is going to be when we come out of here.” Levels of criminal violence have intensified, but reversing the trend can be accomplished with involvement across communities.
“The mission is winnable if you take it one person at a time,” Stroud said.
Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers said that intervention in the lives of youth can make a difference in steering them from criminal associations.
“Take the at-risk and make it positive,” Rogers said.
Keynote speaker Jason Armstrong, chief of the Apex Police Department in Wake County, said gun violence has taken the lives of loved ones and high school and college friends in his personal life.
“I’ve been a police officer for 20 years, and I’ve seen violence from that lens,” he said.
Armstrong recounted the first time he saw a dead body, during his rookie year as an officer. A woman was dumped in a trash can, and as he reached the edge of the can and looked down he stared into the open eyes of the dead woman.
“I share these stories because sometimes we don’t dive into the personal impacts of this violence,” he said.
The summit gave law enforcement leaders and officers, pastors and volunteers from nonprofits and churches a chance to make connections personally during a meet-and-greet before the formal program. Participants traded contacts and discussed meetings and get-togethers before speakers addressed the audience.
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