Duke Chapel discussion focuses on Durham crime
Posted October 20, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Where is the hope in addressing crime in Durham?
When asked during a panel discussion about the issue at Duke Chapel on Monday night, a district court judge and a Duke University history professor emphasized love for one another.
Joslin Simms, who also sat on the panel, didn’t have an answer.
Her 30-year-old son, Rayburn Antonio Demarcus Simms, was killed after he was shot while in his vehicle on Leon Street near Broad Street on May 21, 2005.
His killing remains unsolved.
“I am still going through that anger and pain right now,” Simms said. “There is a part of me that is never going to heal.”
Monday’s conversation, titled “Responding to Violence with Justice and Mercy,” is part of the chapel’s Bridge Series, which seeks to connect people from various walks of life to discuss issues of shared concern.
The talk comes as a rash of shootings earlier this year increased the city’s crime rate by 30 percent between January and June, compared with the first six months of 2013, according to Durham police.
Aggravated assaults were up 50 percent in the first half of 2014, to 587 from 391 last year. Meanwhile, the number of homicides in the city dropped from 13 to 10 in the same period.
Police said a series of retaliation shootings between rival gangs played a role in the jump in assaults.
“We should be protesting these numbers in Durham,” said Simon Partner, the Duke professor.
The panelists cited common denominators behind the numbers. Durham County Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey said most of the defendants she sees are minorities who receive criminal records at a young age. Rev. Melvin Bullock, retired chaplain of Polk Correctional Institution, said broken families are to blame.
Simms, the mother, blames limited opportunities for youth.
“They have to rob and sell drugs,” she said. “Stir it up and it will explode.”
While Monday’s conversation focused on an important concern in Durham, only about 20 people attended.