Bull City United calls for peace as shooting incidents continue to plague Durham

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – People who live in Durham are calling for something to be done about the recent shootings. Two deadly shootings happened back-to-back in the middle of Bull City United’s “week of peace.”

The group is funded by the county. It is made up of outreach workers and violence interrupters. They organized the week-long event where they go to crime-ridden neighborhoods and visit with residents.

On Thursday afternoon, the group set up tables at Liberty Street apartments in downtown Durham and handed out T-shirts and meals to people in the community.

“Our idea was if we can stop the shootings for one week, then we can stop the shootings for a year or two years,” said David Johnson, a supervisor for Bull City United.

But on Wednesday night, two men were killed in two separate shootings that happened within hours of each other.

When Johnson heard about the two shootings, he said all the members were devastated.

“It hits home,” Johnson said. “Every shooting that happens in Durham hits home because we’re connected to so many people.”

The City of Durham recently approved funding to add 18 more staff members to Bull City United and to expand the footprint where these violence interrupters can go to work as mediators in hopes of preventing shootings before they start.

While Johnson is hopeful they can prevent some shootings from happening, he said they cannot do it alone.

“No one can do it alone, that’s why we’re asking for the help of the community,” Johnson said.

During Thursday’s city council work session, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis updated the council on the crime trends in Durham. Davis showed slides that illustrated a 20-percent increase in overall violent crime in Durham in 2020. While aggravated assaults were up 31 percent, homicides were down by 3 percent.

Davis said in September that Durham police created a centralized task force focused on the recent shootings.

“We have seen significant improvements in this group that has come together,” Davis said. “This approach has dismantled the silos that sometimes exist in operations.”

Davis said this group has been focused on more than 200 shooting incidents.

According to data Davis released during the work session, the clearance rates for aggravated assaults for 2020 was 23.93 percent. It was 32.43 percent for homicides.

Data shows Durham trails the FBI’s 2019 clearance rate, which was 41 percent for aggravated assaults and 51.5 percent for homicides.

While Davis said the department is doing what they can to solve the recent shootings, she also said they cannot do it alone. She hopes the expansion of the violence interrupters program will help take a more proactive approach in preventing future shootings.

“We’ll see if some of that work can infiltrate some of these groups that show up on my arrest reports,” Davis said. “To have boots on the ground to help our young people before they get into these very complicated spaces.”

According to the latest data from Durham police, there have been 71 shooting incidents and 18 people shot since Jan. 1. Five of those victims have died.

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