GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — You’ve probably never seen or heard of her before, but it’s been a busy year for Greensboro’s homicide victim advocate.
Mary Nero works for the police department acting as a liaison between detectives and the families of homicide victims.
On Wednesday evening, she’s headed up a prayer healing vigil in Downtown Greensboro. The goal was to honor and remember the 65 people killed in the city so far this year.
Nero has had the chance to connect with each and every one of the families affected by this violence. It’s a heavy case load for Nero and one she worries could only get heavier before the year ends.
“January 1st, our numbers will be back at zero,” said Nero. “The data will start fresh and new but it’s not fresh and new for families. I do worry like how long can I keep up the stamina?”
Nero’s desk is covered with dozens of stacks of Crime Stoppers posters seeking information on various Greensboro homicide cases. Her role comes into play once the crime scene tape comes down and the red and blue flashing lights turn off.
“I let the officers and the detectives and the investigators do their thing,” she said. “Then I come in the next day or a couple of days later and make contact with the family and then kind of build the bridge from there.”
Nero started in her role as homicide victim advocate in 2020 after leaving her position as a sworn officer.
“It’s very helpful because I can explain to the families this is reality of how things are investigated, like where things are going to go from here versus like what you see on TV,” she said.
But even decades of experience can’t prepare you for the toll it takes to meet the victims’ families during the worst times of their lives.
“There are days, especially after the last week that we had, where I probably experienced on some level the same feelings that the families will experience,” said Nero. “I feel sad for what’s happened and the loss of life.”
On the other side of it, Nero experiences the same frustrations as many of us when it comes to the record number of homicides we’ve seen in Greensboro.
“I get angry to like what are we doing,” she said. “What has happened in this city that we’re seeing these numbers? And two, please let this not be acceptable because it’s not acceptable to me so why is it seemingly acceptable to other people?”
Seeing five homices within the span of three days opens up old wounds for many victims’ families.
“It’s like ripping off the band-aid, you know, picking at that scab for them,” said Nero.
There is a silver lining in the midst of the tragedy and heartbreak involved in Nero’s job. It’s the relationships formed between families going through similar situations and the change they hope to make together.
“Homicide affects people from all different races, socioeconomic statuses, different neighborhoods,” she said. “We, within the Mothers Standing Against Gun Violence group and the different community walk groups that will come together, you have people from different corners and different pockets of the city who probably never would have met each other otherwise.”