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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Homicides in Greensboro are up 75% so far this year compared to 2020 and all of them involved guns.

Since Jan. 1, there have been seven deadly shootings.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and city council members joined the Gate City Coalition for a vigil Wednesday in response to the recent violence. 

Organizers asked people who commit violence to put down their guns for the next 60 days. The four deadly shootings within hours of each other the past weekend sparked this call to action. 

“Put your guns down. Don’t shoot,” said Starmecca Parham, an outreach worker for the Gate City Coalition. It’s a cry for change after she lost her brother to gun violence on the streets of Greensboro in 2016. “Let these babies have their parents. Let these moms not have to bury their kids before them.”

Parham turned her pain into action. She’s now helping to lead the Gate City Coalition. The organization focuses on the area around Smith Homes and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to reduce crime. In 2020, there were two killings recorded in their target areas out of the record-breaking 61 across the city. 

Parham and a team of six act as trusted mediators for potential gun violence. They are on call around the clock. 

“We can tell people to leave the streets, don’t shoot, do this, but what are we giving them to do,” she said. “We find felon-friendly jobs because most of the people who come to us are felons.”

Organizers push a message of love over violence. Building relationships, mentorships and connections to help people turn away from a life of crime. 

 “There are mothers missing sons. There are children missing fathers. We have got to say enough is enough,” Vaughan said. “We know that a lot of these are acquaintance driven, that it’s not random violence. This is something that we need to take control of.” 

This community driven approach started last year. Vaughan hopes this time the message will stick. 

“A lot of these people who are offending have gotten younger,” she said. “So it is getting people before they get on a life of crime.”  

Organizers say there’s a lot of work ahead and this the first step. 

“It starts at home if you start at your home to break that generational curse then we can fix our community,” Parham said. “These kids that are out here growing up are the ones that have to teach our children.”

The Gate City Coalition is funded through the Cure Violence Initiative through the end of 2021. City staff are reviewing the target areas to possibly make changes in deterring gun violence.