Local News

Durham looks to teens to battle gang violence

Posted August 15, 2011 10:56 p.m. EDT
Updated August 16, 2011 11:21 a.m. EDT

— City leaders inducted 35 teenagers into the Durham Youth Commission Monday evening, as part of an ongoing effort to battle gang-related and teen-on-teen violence.

Youth commissioner candidates were asked to write an essay about three problems they hoped to tackle in their communities if given the opportunity to advise city leaders on issues affecting young people.

"Gang violence being one of (those issues)," said 16-year-old youth commissioner Jakayla Hart. 

The May murder of 13-year-old Shakanah China, who was shot while standing with friends outside her home on Atka Court, peaked concerns about teen violence, city leaders said. One week after China's death, an 18-year-old and 19-year-old were shot to death on Wadesboro Street.

"It is scary because it could easily be us," Hart said.

Hart said she thinks city leaders should focus on starting programs that will keep teens busy and out of trouble.

Youth commission member Briana Kelly, 16, said she's passionate about Durham and believes education can cure many of the problems she sees in her community.

"Education is the basis of everything," she said.

Commission members serve a one-year term, during which they work at a local youth center.

Durham police released crime statistics Tuesday showing that violent crime – including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – was up 2 percent during the first six months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010.

Property crime – burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft – was down by 5 percent. Reported rapes were down and robberies, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts were at three-year lows, according to Durham police.