WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Wednesday, two Winston-Salem leaders shared curbing gun violence is a top priority for the city.

During Mayor Allen Joines’ State of the City address, he said he’s witnessed an alarming rise.

Newly sworn-in Winston-Salem Police Chief William Penn Jr. shared he wants the community to pitch in, helping kids turn away from violence.

“It does feel heavy, particularly when I was coming off last year feeling good that we were moving in the right direction,” said Joines.

The City of Winston-Salem saw a 25% drop in homicides in 2022.

Joines believes gang activity plays a role in the 16 shootings and 11 homicides so far this year.

“Unfortunately a lot of our young people, this becomes a new family for them if they’re home by themselves and they get recruited, maybe they get some money, some additional things and then they think it’s part of their new family,” said Joines.

Youth crimes were up 4% last year, with 109 crimes committed by teens and youths, with everything ranging from drug charges to weapons possessions.

“No longer can we sit back and say my child is doing fine, I don’t have to do anything else, when we do that issues across the city and county will come to our doorsteps,” said Penn.

Sunday, police believe a kid between the ages of 13 and 15 shot a 16-year-old on Charity Lane.

Tuesday night, a three-year-old child was almost the victim of a drive-by shooting at the Salem Garden Apartments.

Members of the Winston-Salem Police Department are putting a renewed emphasis on the Gang Steering Committee.

It’s a collection of community groups that sit down with parents and kids to get them what they need to stay out of trouble.

Organizers tell FOX8 for the first time in 11 years, they’re asking the city for money to tackle the problem.

Leaders in the city manager’s office tell FOX8 they want to find a way to support the group through community funding.

They are also focused on filling the 144 officer vacancies on the police force.