Durham sets grim record with 44 homicides this year
With six weeks left in the year, Durham has already recorded 44 homicides, making 2021 the deadliest year in the city since authorities started keeping records.Posted — Updated
Most of the deaths were gun-related. Durham police report 38 fatal shootings through Nov. 13, a 52 percent jump from a year ago. The total number of shootings in the city is down by 15 percent this year, however.
"This year, we are having unprecedented gun violence," Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said.
To provide a visual reminder of the violence, advocates rolled out a 70-foot-long quilt in front of the county courthouse on Thursday that includes the names of more than 900 people from the community who lost their lives to gun violence in the last 27 years.
Sydney Brodie, a former 911 operator, created the quilt in 1994 and uses it to catalog the lives taken too soon.
"I wanted to create something tangible, something that people could interact with to sort of explain, I guess, the extent of the destruction," Brodie said. “Once I add the square, I would border it off, no matter where it stops. I would border it off as if it’s finished in hopes that it is."
Birkhead said he wanted the quilt "to be front and center" at the courthouse, noting hundreds of people will pass it each day. It will be on display until Dec. 17.
"This quilt is a reminder of the pain and suffering that we are experiencing in Durham," he said.
"Two of my children are on that quilt," said Brenda Howerton, chairwoman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners. “Let me tell you, you never get over the fact that somebody took the life of your loved one.”
Others with family or friends who are part of the quilt shared their pain during a ceremony Thursday.
“I didn’t want to be here anymore because I didn’t know how to live without my child," Ronda Watson said.
“It’s so fresh. Sometimes I think I can’t get past it,” Evaline Wright said.
“It’s not a day that I don’t wish that he could walk through that door," Brenda Young said of her son, Edward, who was killed in 2017.
"In February of this year, my second son was murdered due to gun violence, only because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Young said.
Birkhead said the sheriff's office and the Durham Police Department are working together to stem the gun violence.
"But we cannot do it alone," he said, calling on the community to join the effort as well.
“I’m going to open my mouth, and I’m going to help someone solve a crime," one woman said during the ceremony. "That should be the mindset of every individual in this city.”
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