WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Winston-Salem leaders are working to reduce youth gun violence in the city by providing free and safe programs for children to participate in.
Northeast Ward Councilwoman Barbara Burke is working with community leaders to put strategies in place to get kids off the streets. The ideas were first developed at a town-hall-style meeting on May 25. On Wednesday, Winston-Salem leaders provided an update on if those strategies are working.
The stats show gun crime is down. From May 25 to July 31, there were zero homicides in the city of Winston-Salem. That’s compared to eight in the same time frame last year. That progress was halted by a deadly shooting on Underwood Avenue on Aug. 5. But law enforcement officers think their collaboration is making a difference.
“The sheriff’s office traditionally has been responsible for the county,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough. “What you’re seeing now is a force multiplier of us coming into the city helping…saturation patrol.”
It’s the first time in the city’s history Forsyth County sheriff’s deputies have done saturation patrols in Winston-Salem.
“The results are outstanding with what you’re seeing happening,” Kimbrough said. “It’s never been done before”
Kimbrough wants to continue that collaboration since he’s seeing a decline in juvenile gun crime this summer.
“We would love to stay here,” he said. “We would love to help out.”
It’s one of several strategies a panel of city leaders came up with to get guns out of the wrong hands.
“It’s our youth,” Councilwoman Barbara Burke said. “It’s our young people out here shooting. Out here getting in trouble with guns.”
The city has implemented several programs for kids of all ages ranging from tutoring to sports and even hiring new personnel whose jobs are to target youth violence prevention. Some community members noted they’ve seen positive changes.
“It was so terrible: the gun violence on 25th street to 24th street. We have been seeing such a beautiful impact, and I just want to tell you how grateful I am,” said one woman who attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Others are worried about what happens once these programs end and students head back to the classroom.
“What are we going to do? What programs will be in place from August to June?” a man asked.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Tricia McManus said the district is launching a new code of character and changing the way administration approaches students and discipline to keep them in the classroom.
“A five-day suspension. A 10-day suspension. That is when that exclusionary practice leads to decisions well, I better be connected somewhere else because I’m not connected in schools,” McManus said.
The superintendent noted it can’t come down to just what happens in school. Parents, community members and teachers all need to work together to keep children on the right path, so their only option is to achieve success.
These community leaders stressed this is not a one-time conversation.
They will continue to host these meetings and come up with new ways to keep making progress. But they are happy with what’s been done so far and look forward to what’s next.