WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's called "Boots on the Ground." The program combines local pastors and Wilmington Police to provide guidance and resources for troubled individuals in the community. The men and women of God are walking the streets, offering advice, and counseling those who live in high crime areas.
“I mean, there's no sense of us going in Landfall trying to be Boots on the Ground and stop crime,” said Pastor James Jamison, a member of the program. “We go where the problem is because at the end of the day we have a responsibility to rescue our babies.”
It started in February after the program's coordinator, Linda Rawley, realized something needed to be done about the Port City’s violent crime problem.
“We had begun to have several homicides in our community and while police and some people were certainly speaking out against the gang violence, we were not necessarily hearing that loud moral voice,” said Rawley.
Rawley along with Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous decided to call on pastors from inner city ministries to help out. Twelve pastors and about twenty more people from various churches have gotten involved.
“We're concerned about the whole city, but we're focusing on the problem right now and what we have to do in Wilmington right now is not to be afraid to say what the problem is and not go after it for fear of not being politically correct,” said Jamison.
Pastors say the target of their community prayer and services is young African American men.
“Young people are emulating crack dealers, emulating pimps and hustlers and they think these are men,” said Jamison. “Those are not men. Those are boys in men’s clothing.”
Since the program kicked off, pastors say their efforts have made a difference and more young people they minister to are getting off the streets and into church.
“The younger men feel a part all of a sudden,” said Pastor Linwood Nesbitt. “They don't feel like they have to change everything about themselves to come into the church. They find their personality and find a place to fit.”
Many of the pastors and others involved have troubled pasts themselves and say they hope their service can demonstrate how anyone can turn their lives around for the better.