WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem Police Department is focused on fighting crime and bridging the gap between law enforcement officers and the community. According to the latest WSPD crime statistics, violent crime increased by more than 300 incidents from 2017 to 2019. Those reported crimes include homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults. 

Police are currently enlisting the help of local religious leaders to put a stop to crime and build trust between law enforcement officers and the community. The Winston-Salem police department is inviting pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders to attend an informational lunch on Thursday at BB&T Ballpark.

During the luncheon, officers will inform participating religious leaders about a new community-building initiative called "Pastors On Patrol." Officers will also encourage local religious leaders to receive training and ride along with patrol officers to help de-escalate any sort of confrontations with the public.

"You get an entirely different view of the city when you're riding along with a police officer versus a snippet on the evening news," said Dr. Ron Baity of Berean Baptist Church, "it's a whole new world when you're out there facing reality."

Dr. Baity's worked with WSPD for nearly two decades as part of community initiatives like Pastors on Patrol, but he believes reintroducing religious leaders as touchpoints in the community will impact Winston-Salem residents in ways legislation cannot.

"The problem in our cities, in our state, in our nation, in our world, is what we call a heart problem," Dr. Baity said, "but when a person has a relationship with Jesus, their nature changes. They love their neighbor instead of hating their neighbor and wants to do good instead of evil."

"The good thing about Pastors on Patrol," Dr. Baity continued, "is [the religious leaders] can take what they've experienced out there and relate it back to their congregations."

"The Pastors on Patrol initiative is about enhancing the community-police relationships and promoting understanding, especially in the midst of a community crisis," said Asst. Chief Natoshia Miles, WSPD. " We work with clergy regularly and in a variety of capacities and this is just a different approach."

The Winston-Salem Police Department is also asking the public to get involved in fighting crime and building relationships with law enforcement officers. 

"We hope that the general public will keep an eye out and engage officers and clergy when they see them," said Asst. Chief Miles." We plan to build upon the success of the alliance that currently exists between clergy and police by establishing trust with members of our community."