Local News

'We're all struggling to figure that out': Gun violence spikes in Durham

Posted September 23, 2020 12:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2020 5:25 p.m. EDT

— On Monday, a 17-year-old was shot in the leg while he was walking down old Oxford Highway by a passing car. He is expected to recover.

Then on Tuesday night, an 11-year-old girl was shot in the head during a drive-by shooting near the intersection of Guess and Horton Roads in North Durham.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said the information he has right now is that the girl should be okay.

He said shootings are on the rise in Durham and that the city has had "a very bad summer in terms of gun violence. It's been much worse than the summer before, and the summer before that."

He added that gangs were responsible for at least some of the shootings and that the bail system is failing Durham by allowing violent criminals to get out of jail.

"I wonder if some of it is COVID-related," said Schewel. "The sense that people have less resources and they're resorting to, you know, drug sales and that kind of thing."

Schewel said that on a local level, leaders are doing what they can to address root causes of violence by focusing on affordable housing and job creation.

"It's really hard for me to figure out what has caused this spike this summer. It's not just me. I think we're all struggling trying to figure that out," he said. "I know our police are as well. The only obvious thing that's different is COVID."

Schewel said Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis has decided to reorganize the city’s investigative forces.

“I don’t think the issue is that we don’t have enough police officers. There wasn’t going to be an officer on the corner where this person was shot,” he said. “I think that the issue is how are we using our investigative resources and are we able to get people to cooperate, which is a huge problem.”

The city had previously done this with the robbery task force, which Schewel said helped reduce the number of robberies in the city.

He said some issues have to be handled by the state and federal government.

“We’ve got to have better gun control,” said Schewel. “We need a national government that is going to provide some national background checks for people. We need to make it so that people cannot just anonymously buy guns at a flea market.”

Council member DeDreana Freeman agreed that the state and federal governments have to play a role, but she also doesn’t think local leaders have done enough.

"I have two 11-year-olds, which is why this morning I spent crying and in tears,” recounted Freeman.

She said she wants to see more money for violence interruption programs, which Schewel said he would support too.

“We have to do something about these guns, because, I mean, we’re failing our kids,” Freeman said.

“We need the intermediate solutions, like the violence interrupters and the social work, the drug treatments, all those things,” said Schewel. “We need the strategic policing and the appropriate prosecution that will help us with those people who are truly violent.”

Police have not released any information about arrests or suspects in either of this week's shootings, involving kids.

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