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Winston-Salem residents hold meeting in response to recent violent crimes

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Violent crimes, gangs and the future of our youth were at the forefront of a community meeting held in the wake of two violent crimes in neighborhoods off of South Main Street in Winston-Salem Wednesday afternoon.

“I am extremely proud to say that overall, in this community, our crime overall is not up,” Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson said. “However, I know it only takes one incident, one, to cause panic, to cause fear in our community and one is too many.”

The meeting was held at United Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, which is across the street from where a teenager was left bleeding after a shooting on Sept. 25. The shooting, which resulted in several crime scenes throughout the city, is being investigated by the police department’s gang unit.

“At latest count we’re at about 1,800," said Sergeant Scott Doss, of the gang population in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. “1,800 validated gang members.”

On July 1, officers responded to two homes on Patria Street, where they found four people who had been shot. The wounds ranged from the upper chest, foot, leg and bicep. The homes are located within a few hundred feet of the church.

“People are coming into our neighborhood, or are in our neighborhoods, using guns to settle their issues,” said Carolyn Highsmith, of the Konnoak neighborhood.

Officers stressed that they need the public’s help identifying, responding to and solving crimes. Meanwhile, Council Member James Taylor stressed that public safety is of utmost importance.

“We will do what we can to keep you safe,” Taylor said.

Concerns from residents ranged from the violent crimes, to graffiti, to communicating with teenagers and students before they get involved in gang activity.

“Graffiti is one of the first tell-tale signs you possibly have gangs in your area,” Doss said.

Doss also detailed some of the inner-workings of gang members and where they are located in the city.

“Gang members are very transient-type people. They’ll go to a rent house and stay there a few months, six months if they even sign a lease, and at the end of that – they could be what I call a southsider, that would live down here on the south side – because they’re lease ran out, now they move up to the north side of town,” he said.

The bottom line from residents is they want to feel safe in the homes many have lived in for decades; in the meantime, watching their neighborhoods change for the worse.

“We will not be afraid to go outside, we will not be afraid to live in this community, because we are water, you are rock, and we will wear you down,” said Bishop Todd L. Fulton.

The community plans to hold future meetings to discuss the issues in coming weeks.