GREENSBORO, N.C. – People from different neighborhoods and backgrounds came to the Greensboro Coliseum Monday night not to see a show or a game, but to find common ground in something they care about: keeping their community safe.
"I love my community," said Jackie Richardson. "I hope everyone else does."
City leaders and Greensboro police spent the evening dissecting why 2017 was such a violent year in the city and how they can make a difference this year.
Chief Wayne Scott says one resounding concern from citizens is gang violence, so he is forming a new group within the Safer City Initiative to specifically focus on gangs.
"How can we stop folks from wanting to be in that organization?” Chief Scott said. "Let's look at other communities that have been successful. What do we need to bring to Greensboro?"
The chief says police pulled 522 guns off the streets last year, more than he's seen in a single year on the force.
"It's disturbing to me that we're interacting with so many individuals who have a gun every moment we interact with them," Chief Scott said.
The Safer City Initiative also focuses on housing, employment and engaging young people too. This year, they're also pushing for a stronger focus on community watches and bringing those into the 21st century by focusing on social media. Greensboro has more than 130 community watch groups, according to the Chief.
"Just everyone here in Greensboro, just come together, make something happen, make something change," said North Carolina A&T student Xavier Hardin.
While all these initiatives aren't going to stop Greensboro's crime problem in its tracks, it will bring people like Hardin one step closer to feeling safer in the community they love.
"Just me being aware of this right now, in the future, I'll be able to make an impact," Hardin said.