It’s disturbing and frightening to read the recent reports of murders in Winston-Salem. Twenty-four murders have occurred in Winston-Salem this year, as of this writing; one of them on Sunday, with a flurry of four the previous week. That’s an increase from 21 murders this time last year.

It’s especially disturbing to read the ages of the perpetrators and victims, who are often in their teens or early 20s.

Especially wrenching are the deaths of 16-year-old Jayden Jamison, who was a football player and student at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy, and Jumil Robertson, a 17-year-old senior at Glenn High School, both of whom died in October. Our hearts go out to their families and friends.

“It all hits home for us,” Winston-Salem police officer Lt. Gregory Dorn told the Journal. “It’s not their time to die, and it’s tragic. You really see some raw emotions that (are) hard to deal with. There’s anger, and we have to be the shield for that, and deflect some of that.”

These murders represent lawlessness that can have a negative effect on the public’s sense of safety, on commerce — and, more important, they represent a waste of precious lives that could be spent much more productively, both that of the victims and the perpetrators.

Many murders and related violence are associated in some way with illegal drugs and/or gang activity. It’s a reality of modern-day life, as well as urban dwelling, that some turn from poverty and the lack of both guidance and opportunity to the lure of quick cash — and quick relief — that illegal drugs provide. Some turn to street gangs to find safety and companionship and find themselves drawn into illegal pursuits that can lead to brutal violence and death.

But there’s hope and help for people involved in these situations, if they can be reached and turned to more wholesome pursuits. This week, one activity is especially designed to counter this waste.

Today is the second day of the Corner 2 Corner Drug Dealers and Street Life Conference. This is a four-day conference designed to deter gang violence by bringing individuals caught up in that lifestyle together with community advocates who can offer them a better way. Participants include “Vegas Don,” Otis Lyons, a former gang leader who helps reluctant members leave their gangs and Bishop Sir Walter Mack, the pastor at Union Baptist Church. Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough will also speak at the conference.

Activities include speeches, workshops and small-group sessions.

“We offer them a plan, a strategy, to turn their life around,” Mack told WFDD’s Eddie Garcia earlier this week. “After three days, we see that hope back in their face and their eyes. We see them light up again. And their life is never the same.”

Corner 2 Corner has been in operation for 16 years, and reaches out to recovering drug addicts as well as gang members and drug dealers.

This is only one small part of a larger effort needed to deter murder and violence in society. Ultimately, the responsibility falls to parents to guide their children correctly. But when that fails, members of a caring society must step in with a variety of options to keep young people from going the wrong way and causing harm — including rigorous law enforcement.

But if lives can be saved before they’re lost, all the better.

The conference is free and open to the public. For more information, call 336-724-9305, ext. 235.

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