Durham city council considers expanding program that sends former gang members to mediate at shooting scenes

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The number of people shot in Durham continues to climb as 253 people have been shot so far this year.

On Wednesday, two shootouts happened near Wabash and East Lawson streets at the McDougald Terrace public housing complex.

The first one occurred in the middle of the day when a teenage boy was shot. The second shooting happened just before 9 p.m. when a car was shot up on Wabash Street.

Stray bullets struck apartment buildings during the shoot out. They hit windows, air conditioners, and doors.

Kimberly Graves said she was standing outside visiting with friends when a stray bullet struck her air conditioner.

“I was real scared and I’m kind of petrified,” Graves said.

More shots could be heard in the distance as CBS 17 conducted the interview with Graves.

“So, this is what we do. We stand out here and we hear gunshots,” Graves said. “If they are not in McDougald, they are around us. I will be glad when they do cease.”

One mother, who did not want to be identified, said the violence has never been this bad at McDougald Terrace.

“To have to pick your child up and just get down on the floor because it sounds like the shots are coming inside, that’s not OK,” she said.

She said she fell on hard times, and McDougald Terrace was the only place for her to turn to raise her kids. She doesn’t feel safe here, but can’t afford to move.

“It’s not fair for us to not be able to sit on the porch and we’ve done nothing,” she said. “We’re just working and trying to live, and you have to run for your life because you don’t know where the bullets are coming from.”

On Thursday, Durham City Council discussed the possibility of creating a partnership with Durham County and expanding the Violence Interrupter program, also known as Bull City United. These individuals are familiar with the life of violence and they will go to scenes after a shooting occurs to serve as mediators.

The goal is to steer individuals away from a life of criminal behavior.

The program was implemented in 2016 and shooting incidents decreased by 28 percent in two high-crime areas of Durham from 2016 to 2018.

In a presentation during Thursday’s meeting, Bull City United member David Johnson said as the violence increases, there is a need to expand the program.

“We can’t be everywhere and we don’t have the manpower to be everywhere,” Johnson said.

The program currently only has five members. They only work in two high-crime locations in the city.

“If I had a choice, give me 100 people and I will show you what I can do,” Johnson said.

The mother from McDougald Terrace that CBS 17 interviewed said she hopes the city will be able to expand the violence interrupter program.

“I think giving it a try is a good option,” she said.

Currently, the expansion of the Violence Interrupter program is still in discussions. City council is expected to come back and discuss it again at a later date.

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