WSPD outlines Violence Reduction Program

by Britt Chester | @awfullybrittish

Last week, the Winston-Salem Police Department decided to act on a new initiative to help reduce violence and crime in the downtown area. Police officers visited bars, clubs and downtown businesses with a nine-page outline of the Violence Reduction Program on June 19.

In the May 20 issue of YES! Weekly, the cover story, “Growing Pains,” addressed some of the future potential risks, as well as the past violations regarding violence and crime in downtown Winston-Salem. That story was in response to a then recent “affray” that occurred within in the 200 block of West Fourth Street.

The Violence Reduction Program has a clear objective of “promoting safety and to encourage healthy nightclub and nightclub commerce in Winston- Salem.” The plan, which reads somewhat elementary and offers examples that sound more like a young adult counseling roleplaying scenario than a real-life situation, is to “curb or eliminate criminal behavior” in nightclubs.

However, there are some interesting points to be made with some of the general statutes listed under the criminal chapters.

One of the situations not addressed in “Growing Pains” was the homeless population that strolls the pavement of downtown. People complain about beggars, but did you know that it is in violation of City Code 38-31 to beg for money one half hour following sunset? Or that it violates the same code to beg for money within 100 feet of an ATM? It’s also a violation if the beggar is drunk (so be careful when you have to beg your friend for $8 to catch a cab home safely.)

Danielle Bull, owner and operator of Bull’s Tavern, which was recently highlighted in YES! Weekly for catching counterfeit money – $240 to be precise – has taken necessary precautions to protect her business and employees by installing high definition surveillance cameras throughout the establishment. It was these cameras that helped her identify the three suspected criminals who were passing off the fake bills.

“Most of the things – with the legal background I have – I knew most of the laws, or made myself aware of the laws I need to follow,” Bull said. Prior to opening Bull’s Tavern she worked as a paralegal. “I like the fact that it has clearly defined the roles.”

Bull went on to applaud the police department for taking a step in the right direction in creating a conversation between law enforcement and the business owners.

“That’s a police sponsored next step, which is good,” she added.

Bull reiterated that although this outline defines when the bar owner is responsible and when the police need to step in, communication between bar owners is just as important. Just last week her door staff caught an underage person attempting to gain access to her bar using a fake ID, and once caught, walked next door to Recreation Billiards to try and use another one.

“Needless to say, he didn’t get it,” Bull laughed.

When we spoke with Jason Thiel, president of the Downtown Winston- Salem Partnership, he noted that downtown is becoming more densely populated with more people and businesses using the same spaces that once were sparsely inhabited. With the involvement of law enforcement, and clear lines of communication between bar owners and staff, the violence and crime that once riddled downtown Winston-Salem will near cease.

With that said, Heavy Rebel Weekender is occurring Friday, Saturday and Sunday on and around Trade Street, which will surely see a rowdy crowd. Hopefully, the timely delivery of the Violence Reduction Program outline will help bar owners and staff maintain safety and order in a time of otherwise drunken debauchery (there is mud wrestling and a PBR drinking contests). !