Marcia Owen, director of the Religious Coalition for Nonviolent Durham, has watched in dismay as the city's homicide statistics piled up this year.
"It's more than a heart can hold," Owen said Tuesday. "It looks like, so often, it's common conflict and the presence of a gun."
Many of Durham's homicides are clustered in the eastern part of the city, away from the thriving downtown area.
"The two Durhams. The tale of two cities, essentially," Owen said.
Four of the city's 2015 homicides were ruled self-defense, and one was an officer-involved-shooting.
Mayor Bill Bell called the spike in homicides the exception rather than the rule and pointed out that other large cities are seeing the same trend.
Charlotte has had 61 homicides in 2015, compared with 42 in 2014, but Raleigh has had 17 homicides – about the same as last year.
Durham has begun a national search for a new police chief, and Bell said city officials want someone with a track record of reducing crime in a similar-sized city.
"It's important to understand we're not going to put all this on the police chief, not going to put this on law enforcement," he said. "It's got to be a community effort."
The city created task forces last year to focus on health, education, housing, jobs, public safety and finance, and Bell said that, after almost two years of research, outreach and planning, they are ready to start putting their ideas in effect in 2016 to help improve the poorest areas of Durham, which should reduce crime.