Thirty-three homicides occurred in Winston-Salem in 2022. Last month alone, the city clocked nine.

In response to the surge in violent crime in January, Northeast Ward representative Barbara Hanes Burke held a gun-violence community briefing on Tuesday evening at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. 

Members of the public were invited to to hear from public officials, representatives for the police and fire departments, and other community advocates and partners who talked about current efforts to curb the violence in the city, as well as their plans for the future.

Council members in attendance included Mayor Allen Joines and Mayor Pro Tem Denise D. Adams, along with leadership from the Winston-Salem Police Department including recently appointed Police Chief William Penn. Speakers also included Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough, Director of Emergency Medical Services for Forsyth County Joey Hundley and representatives for the Winston-Salem Fire Department. City Manager Lee Garrity and Assistant City Manager Patrice Toney were also present.

Community member Ghali Hasan told TCB that he and his family members have been personally impacted by gun violence.

“I’m affected, my mother’s affected,” Hasan said. “Every time she sees another shooting on the news, it regurgitates it for her.”

A single coffin was placed below the podium during the event as a reminder of the lives lost. Director of Russell Funeral Home Cedric Russell told the crowd, “Parents are not supposed to bury their children.” 

Local law enforcement speak at the community meeting on Feb. 7 (photo by Gale Melcher)

In an interview with TCB, Burke listed recent steps taken by the city in effort to quell gun violence such as the recent approval to fund Cure Violence, an international organization committed to changing social norms, interrupting violence and treating individuals. Burke noted that the cost of the program was split between the county and the city with a total budget of $1.5 million. The resident-led community development organization Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods was chosen to manage the program. 

“So far, that’s what has come through, as well as funding for these additional technologies that we’re using to detect gun crime,” Burke said. The WSPD has utilized the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system since 2021 and last year the city expanded the WSPD’s Real-Time Crime Center. Housed in the criminal investigations division, this center centralizes the tools and technologies used by the police department to solve crime.

“We’re gonna continue to collaborate,” Burke said, adding that the city wants to make a difference wherever they can.

Assistant Police Chief Wilson Weaver urged the public to share information with the WSPD if they witness a crime. 

“We’ve got to be able to have information to be able to solve these types of crimes,” Weaver said. As he spoke, he told the story of Enedy Penaloza Morales, a 12-year-old who was shot and killed after a fight broke out in Weston Park last month. 

“Over 30 people were out there; a number of them were shooting video on their cell phones of that incident as it was occurring,” Weaver said. The WSPD is still investigating Morales’ murder. As of Feb. 9, 192 children aged 0-17 in the US have been killed by firearms in 2023 according to the Gun Violence Archive, a research group tracking firearms-related violence. The issue hit close to home when 15-year-old William Miller Jr. was shot and killed at Mt. Tabor High School by a fellow student in September 2021.

“Nobody knows nothing about nothing,” Weaver said as he called for the public to share evidence with the police department. “We need help, we need the information. As a community we have to be committed to solving all of our homicides.”

In an interview with TCB, Assistant Police Chief Jose Gomez said that the WSPD is aware of numerous witnesses in cases such as Morales’, saying that the department is “asking them to come forward and produce either videos, photographic evidence or any type of evidence that they may have garnered during the event.” 

Gomez said that the WSPD is not receiving cooperation from the community on that front. “In order for us to solve these crimes, we need that cooperation,” he said.

Speakers who work with at-risk youth and communities affected by gun and gang violence expressed their concerns regarding information sharing. 

The founder of New Life Nueva Vida, an organization that offers productive outlets to help keep kids off the streets, David Villada countered the pleas for information, saying that people might be hesitant to share due to concerns about their own safety and the repercussions that could follow if they inform the police.

Villada suggested that people might not want to incriminate themselves by “point[ing] a finger… because they’re afraid of what might happen to them next.”

Still, as someone who works regularly with families who have lost loved ones to violence, Villada acknowledged the need for something to change.

“How do I start a sentence?” Villada asked, his voice wavering. “‘Good day? Good afternoon? How’re you doing? How’ve you been?’ These are the questions you ask when somebody’s dead.” 

“Let’s make some demands,” Villada urged. “I’m tired of looking at my family, at my people, at my community, because I hurt like they hurt.

“What are we still doing talking? Put us in the streets,” Villada proposed. “You guys are the specialists… the professionals. Make us your assembly line. Put us to work. We’ll give you a finished product.”

‘We do not trust the police.’

Villada’s concerns echoed comments made at the first of two public forums that ultimately helped the city choose their new police chief. During a meeting on Jan. 19, Vivian Perez Chandler said she wanted the next chief to be conscious of the unique issues facing Winston-Salem’s immigrant community. 

“There’s a lot of trauma for our immigrant community…. The relationships that we have with police officers are not the same,” she said. “We come from a background of [corrupt] police officers where there is no safety. We do not trust [the] police.”

Gomez mentioned to TCB that there are a couple different ways that information can be reported confidentially, suggesting Crime Stoppers and Text-A-Tip as well as, a webpage that ties directly back into the WSPD’s Real-Time Crime Center and enables community members to register their security cameras with the WSPD. Last year the city partnered with Fusus, an Atlanta-based software company. Their technology allows police officers to tap into cameras across the city with the camera owners’ permission. 

Gomez said that tipsters who are concerned about being identified do have the option to remain anonymous. The police department can’t provide protection to people who don’t identify themselves, Gomez advised. “Ultimately if we receive the information and it’s anonymous, we can’t provide that information to other people,” he said.

Many members of the community expressed concerns over the sheer number of guns in circulation.

Police Chief Penn spoke about gun-violence prevention in the community, urging young people to stay focused on their dreams and “not decide to go get one of these 390 million civilian guns” when faced with conflict.

Community activist and co-founder of Rally Up Winston-Salem Corey McCann took a stand against the gun shows that take place in Winston-Salem multiple times throughout the year.

“The work needs to be done right now. Why is it that we allow the gun shows to take precedence in our city?” McCann said. “People are doing things under the table to sell these guns to get them out there to the people.”

In 2020, the RAND Corporation published a state-level study estimating household firearm ownership, finding that 45.8 percent of adults in North Carolina have guns in their homes. The city hosted two gun-buyback events in 2021 and 2022 to address the rising gun violence within the area, using $149,000 in cash funds to eliminate a total of 883 guns from circulation.

After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia’s government enforced a country-wide mandatory gun buyback, resulting in the collection of more than 650,000 guns. They also enacted new laws to restrict the types of firearms legally available and require training and registrations to possess one. To acquire a firearm, people must undergo background checks that include criminal record checks, as well as any court ordered mental health orders and intelligence checks. Those who have committed certain offenses, including violent crimes, robbery, prohibited drug offenses and more, are prohibited from obtaining a gun license.While the US suffered more than 600 mass shootings in 2022, Australia had just one.

All CityBeat reporting content is made possible by a grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund, available to republish for free by any news outlet who cares to use it. Learn More ↗

Republish this story 🞬

Republishing Content

All content created for the CityBeat— photos, illustrations and text — is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 license (CCA-ND).

These republishing rules DO NOT apply to all of our content. The CityBeat is a nonprofit-funded position that specifically reports on city council business in Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

You are free to republish all content from the CityBeat under the following conditions:

  • Please copy and paste an html tracking code into articles you post online, allowing us to access analytics on our work.
    It can be dropped onto the page right beneath the copyable content, available below.

    If your site is using Google Analytics already:

        gtag('config', 'UA-49884744-1');
        gtag('event', 'page_view', {
            page_title: 'At Winston-Salem’s gun violence briefing, officials plea for info while community remains wary of law enforcement',
            page_location: '',
            send_to: 'UA-49884744-1'

    If your site is not using Google Analytics:

    <script async src=""></script>
        window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
        function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
        gtag('js', new Date());
        gtag('config', 'UA-49884744-1');
        gtag('event', 'page_view', {
            page_title: 'At Winston-Salem’s gun violence briefing, officials plea for info while community remains wary of law enforcement',
            page_location: '',
            send_to: 'UA-49884744-1'

  • Please use our bylines with attribution to Triad City Beat with a live link to our website: "by Gale Melcher/Triad City Beat"
  • At the bottom of the article (print or web) please include this text (links may be hyperlinked online):

    "Triad City Beat is an independent, for-profit news source serving the cities of the NC Piedmont Triad in Guilford and Forsyth counties, online at
    CityBeat content is funded by a grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund, online at"

  • If you have any questions, please contact Brian Clarey at [email protected]

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡