Residents speak out about crime (copy) (copy)

Kendrick Rondell Gilbert Sr. addresses Greensboro City Council members with his concerns about crime at a special public forum Wednesday at the Windsor Recreation. His son and nephew were killed on Sept. 2.

GREENSBORO — Kendrick Gilbert Sr. will bury his son and his nephew Thursday.

The two 24-year-old men were asleep in their home one night about a week ago when men broke in and shot and killed them both.

Gilbert’s son Kendrick Gilbert Jr. had a job and had been a talented athlete. And his father wants answers.

“They ain’t coming back,” Gilbert told the Greensboro City Council Wednesday night. “I have to go bury my son and my nephew tomorrow.

"What I want to ask you, what are you doing about it?”

City Council held the two-hour meeting at Windsor Community Recreation Center on Gate City Boulevard to listen to residents talk about gun violence and crime.

They heard a lot.

Nearly 20 people spoke in the basketball gym about an epidemic of violence in Greensboro that has touched many of them.

They shared their personal stories, they cried and they yelled about the recent killings in Greensboro.

Eight people have been killed in violent crimes since Aug. 24, bringing the city’s death toll up to 30 for the year. That’s 14 fewer killings than the 44 from all of 2017 — a record-breaking year. The city finds itself already on the cusp of surpassing the number of people killed in 2018 (34) and 2016 (36).

But those are just numbers.

Many of the people who spoke at the meeting have lost sons and relatives to gun violence. They are bitter and they are bewildered.

Nine women stood up as a group called Mothers Standing Against Gun Violence.

They represented six children killed since 2017.

“We are tired. We are tired. We had to bury our children," said Tonya Cuthbertson, one of the many mothers who spoke. "It’s coming. It hasn’t hit you. But when it does we will stand with you.”

Other speakers said churches can have an impact on violence.

C.J. Brinson, a community activist, said the city should fund the Cure Violence program. It’s a national program that brings experts in community violence to intervene in neighborhoods before young people can commit crimes.

But it costs $550,000 a year. And while the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and City Council had said they would split the cost, the commissioners tabled the funding and the council hasn’t taken action.

Eight members of the council attended the meeting, listened, and some spoke.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the council does not have all the answers and wants to hear as many suggestions as possible.

Councilwoman Sharon Hightower said, “I have one child and if she got shot I would curl up in a ball and die.”

But she said the problem is difficult. She supports Cure Violence, she said, but the problem is big.

“You have to eat an elephant one bite at a time," she said. "If we don’t start chewing it’s going to bite us.”

Councilwoman Goldie Wells said this meeting was an urgent response to comments from earlier council meetings.

“Something is going to be done,” she said. “We’re going to do the things we can do.”

Some speakers called on the police to step up their work, to be better investigators, to make their presence more visible in neighborhoods.

One older woman said bad lighting can draw danger into neighborhoods and it scares her.

Lisa Wallace knows the two young men who were killed in the home invasion. They were her nephews.

“I never thought it would happen to my family," she said, "but at the rate it’s going everybody in this room will be affected by gun violence.”

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Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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