Local News

After spate of violence, Durham leaders ask for broader involvement

Posted January 17, 2019 12:31 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2019 9:42 p.m. EST

— After a spate of violent crimes in the first weeks of 2019, Durham city and county leaders asked members of public to help keep their communities safe.

Durham has had six homicides- five in the city and once in the county- since the beginning of January, Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis said, including the killing of a woman and her 10-month-old child.

A shooting injured two girls, who Davis said were not apparently the intended targets. She said the shooting was likely gang-affiliated.

Mayor Steve Schewel said that numerous groups, including a robbery task force and a gang-reduction steering committee, are designed to reduce violent crime.

He called on the state Legislature to pass statewide common sense gun laws, like implementing background checks and restricting gun sales at flea markets, or to allow communities to pass such laws.

“We have got to have common-sense gun laws in this state,” Schewel said.

He said at a community level, though, violence prevention begins at an early age, saying that children need safe homes, food, affordable health care and access to education.

“We’re not going to solve this unless we attack root causes,” Schewel said.

Schewel said that there were 866 gun-related crimes in Durham in 2018, which was fewer than the numbers in 2017, 2016 and 2015.

Davis said the police department will increase officer visibility and continue to build relationships with different communities to ensure residents “feel free to move within the city” without fear.

Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said he recognized the impact of mental illness, trauma and gun violence on individuals and in communities.

While violence is a part of any area, “this is our city,” he said.

"These issues are not unique to Durham but...this is a crisis that we are currently experiencing," he said.

He encouraged members of the public to reach out to law enforcement officers and crisis centers when they recognize threats of violence, in person or online.