Durham city councilors divided on how to address gun violence as homicides spike

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Homicides in Durham are up 32 percent from this time last year according to data from Durham police — and some are concerned this year could be the deadliest year in the city.

Right now, the deadliest year on record in Durham is 2016 when there were 42 homicides.

Two men, Tavis Rhodes and Shamori Brown, were shot and killed on Saturday night in a parking North Carolina Central University during a football game. Police have not released any more details about the shooting.

Durham City Councilor DeDreana Freeman met CBS 17 at the parking lot where those two individuals were killed.

“It’s almost unbearable to think how many folks were afraid this weekend and just knowing this is exactly where those young men’s lives were lost,” Freeman said.

Freeman is urging other Durham city councilors to have a serious conversation about what can be done immediately to address the problem with gun violence.

“I don’t think we’re even having the conversation right now,” Freeman said. “We’re not even breaking the surface as what’s possible to help our children and youth, to help them understand their lives matter.”

Durham City Council did vote in January to spend $1 million to expand their violence interrupter program, a program that consists of individuals who are familiar with crime-ridden communities and work to prevent crime.

While the expansion includes adding 18 more violence interrupters and outreach workers, only 5 more individuals have been hired.

Meanwhile, the problem with gun violence continues to plague the city as there have been 579 shooting incidents, 198 people have been shot, and 32 of those individuals have died.

North Carolina Central University’s Chancellor Dr. Johnson Akinleye asked Durham City Councilors at a press conference on Monday to consider implementing ShotSpotter, a gun detection technology that automatically sends police to the scene of a shooting. The idea behind the technology is to create a quicker response so police can catch more suspects.

ShotSpotter had offered a free six-month trial to Durham last year, but not enough city councilors supported this.

Durham City Councilor Javiera Caballero said she was not in favor of trying ShotSpotter.

Even though ShotSpotter was offering a free trial, she had concerns about the city eventually spending taxpayer money after the trial on technology that she said has not been effective in other cities.

“When we spend money on something that might not be the most effective, then it means that we are not able to spend the money on something that could have been more effective,” Caballero said.

Instead, Caballero said there needs to be stricter gun reform at the state level.

She added that creating the city’s new public safety department and sending unarmed officers to mental health calls will help officers focus more on violent crime.

“I think it means we’re going to get better policing because we’re going to have officers focused on investigating and solving violent crime,” Caballero said.

Councilor Caballero said administrative staff is also working on a proposal to increase police officer pay. She said she would be in favor of this because she said it’s important the city fill all of its 69 vacant police officers positions.

Currently, there’s no word on when this might be discussed.

Caballero is one of the seven candidates running for Durham mayor in the upcoming municipal election.

The City of Durham is also close to selecting a new police chief.

City officials are still completing a background investigation and the goal is to have a new chief selected by the end of the month.

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