Wilmington residents are coming together in an effort to end the recent rash of gang violence that has affected the city.
"It's a battle we're fighting and I don't wish the pain on anyone," Cherelle Dailey, who lost her cousin Joseph Williams in a drive-by shooting, told a forum attended by about 150 people at Wilmington City Hall on Monday. The meeting was the first of several that local leaders hope will result in a plan to deal with the gang violence.
"I didn't think that the blacks and the whites could come together on such a common ground," said Raheem Nelson. "We all have the same ideas. We're all looking to make a difference and to make a change."
The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office and Wilmington Police Department recently put 64 officers on the street who don't normally work patrol duty as a way to discourage gang activity. Wilmington police have created a gang investigation unit.
The discussion Monday centered on dealing with the problem beyond law enforcement.
"We really need to work at intervention and prevention which means support young men," said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We will be there for you."
Among the problems discussed at the gathering were lack of activities in the summer and a lack of vocational opportunities.
"To get a job, you need a background check. But I can become a gang-banger, I can become a stickup man, I can become a strong-arm robber. You don't need a background check for that," said the Rev. James Jamison of Hope Baptist Church.
A second meeting to discuss how to deal with gangs and gang violence is scheduled Nov. 13.