WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- According to the Winston-Salem Police Department, the number of homicides in the city this year nearly doubled compared to 2012.
So far in 2013, the police department has investigated 15 homicides compared to eight at this time last year.
FOX8 talked to community leaders who believe the escalation of violence should be addressed immediately.
“I don't think people realize how many people out here are struggling,” pointed out Dr. John Mendez, the Reverend at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
He says this year’s violence in the city reminds him of the 1990s, when he helped lead a program to lower crime in the Piedmont.
“One of the things we were able to do was offer opportunities but also bring down the violence. In High Point they did bring it down to almost zero so we know it can work,” explained Dr. Mendez.
He believes it’s time to launch another program in Winston-Salem targeting youth. In his experience, Dr. Mendez said violence starts with young people who grew up in poverty, have low self-esteem and turn to crime.
“Having to go to school and come home to sleep on the floor or in bathtubs to escape the violence. So what I'm saying is the violence begins in one's spirit before it becomes and external act.”
Ten of the 15 homicide victims in Winston-Salem this year were people 29 years old or younger. Several arrests of murder suspects involved young men in their 20s.
“Unfortunately, it's not surprising,” said Sylvester Reed, Jr. when told about the number of homicides increasing this year.
Reed is a Case Manager with Piedmont Support Services of North Carolina. The non-profit in Winston Salem helps at-risk youth.
Reed believes in the power of mentorship because of first-hand experience. “I had an opportunity to be around good role models, good mentors, who not only were with me while I was in the program, but they were accessible after I moved on.”
“Hope is the missing element,” suggested Dr. Mendez.
They are determined new programs can help teens find hope before they resort to violence.
“Our young people are tomorrow's leaders,” Reed concluded.