Local News

Durham mayor on gun violence: 'We won't tolerate it'

Posted January 7, 2016 5:20 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2016 6:23 p.m. EST

— As the first full week of 2016 came to a close Thursday, officials in Durham came together to reveal a new plan they say will help bring down the city's violent crime rate.

In 2014 Durham had 22 homicides. In 2015, the murder rate went up nearly 100 percent - with 42 homicides. And so far, in 2016, two people have been killed.

Three days into the new year, a man was found dead behind a home in the 2800 block of Ashe Street. Two days later, a woman was shot and killed standing near the intersection of East Main Street and Elm Street just after 1 p.m.

"I've been with the police department almost 28 years, and I have not seen the level of shootings that we have been having in the city," said Larry Smith, the interim police chief.

On Thursday, Mayor Bill Bell and Sheriff Mike Andrews joined Smith to talk about what is being done to stop gun violence.

"It is not going to be tolerated. We won't tolerate it," Bell said.

Smith said they have identified a group they believe is responsible for some of the crime.

"We have identified 19 individuals, either by past behavior or through intelligence. We know there is a high probability that they have been involved in some of the violence that has been going on in the city," Smith said. "We are going to do everything we can within legal means to deal with those individuals."

According to Smith, four specialized teams will be committed to the mission.

While he did not go into detail about exactly what is causing the uptick in violence, he steered away from questions regarding a gang war.

"There may be some of that on a small scale, but not on a large, gang-war type," Smith said.

Arnold Smith lost his son last year to gun violence and said he wants to see the police do more.

"We have a lot of gangs in Durham. It can get worse," he said.

Smith attended the meeting to demand results from city leaders.

"Even though I lost (my son), my pledge was to continue the fight," he said.

At the meeting Thursday, officials also emphasized the importance of community involvement in ending violent crime.