WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Following a violent year in Winston-Salem, police department leaders believe they are making major headway in preventing a repeat year for 2020.
During a public safety news conference, Winston-Salem police announced they saw an increase in almost every violent crime category.
Compared to 2018, the 2019 year saw a 19.2 percent increase in homicides, a 12.6 percent increase in rape and a 17.1 percent increase in aggravated assaults.
There was a massive drop in robbery cases, however, with 14.1 percent.
City police seized more firearms that were being used illegally by individuals and some were even linked to violent cases.
In 2019, 711 pistols were seized, 69 shotguns and 120 rifles. In total, 900 firearms were taken off the streets, which is around 215 more than in 2018.
The most concerning part of 2019 was the number of teenagers involved in violent crimes.
Last year alone, 169 juveniles between the ages of 7 and 17 were arrested for violent crimes.
11 of those teens were linked to homicides.
As disturbing as the trend is, Winston-Salem police are taking drastic steps to reach those troubled teenagers.
“We hope to reach those individuals before their lifestyles and their associations with gangs, particularly, leads to that type of crime,” Winston-Salem Police Captain Steven Tollie said.
He said the department will continue to push for more engagement with those children and young adults through education and the establishment of a relationship with officers.
“Those offenders, they are young. We can reach them before this happens,” he said.
In a breakdown of the statistics, 124 of those teens committed aggravated assaults, 11 were homicides and 50 were charged with robbery. Those numbers are more than High Point and Greensboro saw in 2019 combined.
When it comes to victims of violent crimes, more than 508 juveniles were involved, six of whom were killed. The youngest being a 5-year old.
As heartbreaking as it is to hear, Tollie said it adds fuel to their drive to make a difference in the community.
“It drives you to increase your efforts to save a fellow classmate of that suspect or that victim doesn’t go down the same path,” he said.