WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- With a wave of violence sweeping through parts of the Port City, community leaders are banding together with a unified message.
The Hillcrest Community has been the site of some of the violence. Today it became the center of peace.
Pastors from 25 area churches joined forces with the Wilmington Police Department and members of the Hillcrest Community to ask the feuding members of the Bloods gang for a 90-day cease fire. With more than 220 reports of shots fired in Wilmington since January, all involved in the rally say they are tired of the violence, and that it has to end now.
"The problem finally came that there is nowhere to run, and there's nowhere to hide," said Rev. James Jamison Jr., pastor of Hope Baptist Church for All Nations. "This isn't a problem for my house or your house. This is a problem for our house. Now that it is affecting everybody, everybody is willing to come out and find their place, get in their place and hopefully stay in their place and continue this war against violence."
"It's going to work, because so many of the gentleman that I have spoken with are saying that they're willing to stop," said Rev. Lynwood Nesbitt of New Covenant Holiness Church. "They want to stop. Nobody wants to die. Nobody is going to talk publicly, but if we can identify the principle parties and sit down privately and discuss it, I guarantee everybody is willing to come to a resolve."
Once a cease fire is in place leaders in the black community say they plan to turn attention to improving their neighborhoods and giving kids a fighting chance.
"We overlook the obvious sometimes," Nesbitt said. "We need to get back, coach the children, sponsor tournaments, feed them, laugh and joke so they can pick father figures and we can get everyone on the right track. If we can open a center or a club, something that they can go to and take ownership and call it theirs, I guarantee the nights will be quiet."
Police Chief Ralph Evangelous says his department will step up enforcement in the coming weeks. But he says the best way to end this problem is with the help of the entire community.