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Durham Funeral Directors Drive Home Deadly Message

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DURHAM — An unusual procession in Durham Tuesday was intended to raise awareness about violence. As 33 hearses were driven through the city, each hearse representing a person murdered in 1998, residents took notice.

The hearses began lining up shortly before 3 p.m. The funeral directors say they are tired of the violence in Durham, and that the procession was their way of fighting back.

"Crime and violence exist because people let it exist," says funeral director Michael Jones. "We want people to be proactive against crime, and proactive against violence in their neighborhoods."

The residents in one Durham neighborhood could not believe what they were seeing.

"It's deep, it's really deep," said resident Kimberly Whitley.

"I really think it's great. We have to make an impact in some way on the young people of today," resident Helen Thomas said. "If we don't, then who will?"

Shocking people to get people involved in their neighborhoods was the goal. Organizers also wanted to catch the eyes of young people to teach them about violence before it is too late.

"It's protesting all this violence that's going on," resident Viola Philpott said. "We love this."

The procession ended in front of the Durham armory where other anti-violence activities were taking place.

The violence rate in Durham actually dropped 13 percent last year, but residents and officials say they still have a long way to go.