Cure Violence Global begins week-long introduction to community

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

SALISBURY — In 2014, Salisbury City Council member Anthony Smith got a phone call he did not want to receive, but that call has driven him for years to do something about the gun violence in Salisbury.

The call was to notify him that 23-year-old Marquis Feamster had been shot and killed on Fisher Street. Smith had been working with Feamster to get him away from gang life, to turn his life around.

“The people that were after him wouldn’t let him go,” said Smith, “and he finally decided he was going to face them, tell them he wanted out. And in his last conversation [with another friend,] he said if he didn’t come back, he wanted me to do something for these children.”

Smith said he promised himself he would, and this week, he is helping introduce the Cure Violence program to Rowan County as part of his effort to keep that promise.

Cure Violence Global is an organization that uses public health program models and disease-control methods to address and reduce violent crime, specifically gun violence.

Tuesday morning began with a partner breakfast followed by a “stakeholder” session, including Salisbury, Spencer and East Spencer and Rowan County officials, and an afternoon neighborhood tour hosted by Rowan County H.O.P.E.

Tuesday night, two representatives from Cure Violence made a “Cure Violence 101” presentation to anyone who wanted to attend, outlining the basics of the program, including how it works and what it costs.

Aric Johnson, national coordinator for strategic partnership out of Atlanta, and Demeatreas Whatley, program implementation specialist from Chicago, took about an hour to detail how the program works, explaining that the basic premise is treating violence as a health crisis rather than crime.

“We approach it the same way you would a health epidemic,” Johnson said. “Our goals are to interrupt the transmission, to prevent future spread, and to change both individual and community norms.”

Whatley explained that most of the staff are people who have come out of the life of violence, because those are the people who understand and can function inside that world.

“This is a dangerous job,” he said. “Violence interruptors and outreach workers work in pairs, they don’t work in the field alone. And they need to be people this community trusts, who are connected and know what is going on, and who have a good name in the community so people will be willing to believe in them.”

He also noted that community organizations that want to participate need to understand the community they will be working with, and believe it is worth the investment.

Maggie Blackwell pointed out that in trying to quantify the financial benefit of using the program, it would be worth considering how much people who formerly cost the county money in incarceration or other programs are now paying into the county by paying taxes.

The cost of the program can run $500,000 initially, and if it is successful and grows, it can be more expensive. But, Johnson said when you consider the cost of one severe gunshot victim’s medical treatment, it ends up saving communities money.

“I’m tired of people calling my city ‘Shotsbury,’ ” said Smith. “I want this to be an equitable, beautiful, peaceful place to life, where young people want to stay.”

The rest of the week includes individual stakeholder meetings with a wide range of organizations, including public safety, nonprofits and the school system to name a few.

More details will come during the week as the introductory meetings progress.

For more information on Cure Violence Global, visit the website at