Gov. Cooper announces violence prevention office

Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Associated Press
RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday his administration would create an office aimed at helping local law enforcement and public health officials reduce violence in their communities through trainings, model programs and assistance to access funding from the federal government and elsewhere.

During the Executive Mansion event, which was attended by gun-violence prevention advocates, lawmakers and others, Cooper signed an executive order creating the Office of Violence Prevention within the Department of Public Safety.

The new office will coordinate efforts across state and local departments to reverse infamous trends of violence. Cooper said gunfire has surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury deaths among children, while in 2021 children in North Carolina were 51% more likely to die from gun violence than children nationwide.

“Too many families and communities are enduring the tragic injuries and deaths from homicide, from carelessness, from suicide,” Cooper said at the event. “And whether a gun is used or not, violence is a tragedy that has to be stopped. It requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

One approach could originate from activities conducted by the One Step Further Gate City Coalition community violence prevention program in Greensboro. The program includes volunteers who go into high-crime areas and work to diffuse conflicts by speaking with crime victims and those who wish to do others harm.

It’s resulted in a 30% reduction in aggravated assaults in the program’s target areas since 2019, said program manager Ingram Haizlip, herself a shooting victim in 2011.

“Violence prevention programs include community members who understand our community, look like our community, talk like our community, empathize with our community and love our community one block at a time,” Haizlip said.

An executive director will be hired for the office in the coming months, Cooper said. The Department of Public Safety is already making plans for a statewide public awareness campaign launching in June about the safe storage of firearms.

Cooper, a Democrat, supports additional gun restrictions in state law, but the Republican-controlled legislature has largely ignored such proposals from him and his allies. The new office doesn’t need legislation to be created.

“Unfortunately, the General Assembly has not yet wanted to take these steps, the governor said. “So we must tackle these challenges with the tools that we have.”

Republican lawmakers this year are again advancing measures that would ease gun rules.

Proposed GOP legislation would eliminate the state’s pistol purchase permit requirement from a local sheriff to purchase a gun, as well allow concealed weapons permit holders the ability to carry their gun while attending religious services at a private school or some charter schools. Cooper successfully vetoed similar bills in 2021, but Republican seat gains in November increases the possibility that similar vetoes this year could be overridden.