DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Neighborhoods in Durham where families are experiencing extreme poverty and social vulnerabilities are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in the city, according to a recent gang assessment.
According to the latest Durham gang assessment, there are 12 census tracks or neighborhoods in Durham that are experiencing an excessive amount of violence, which includes aggravated assaults and homicides.
Census tract 14 in Durham had the highest number of homicides and aggravated assaults per 100,000 people from 2018 to 2020, as there were 2,545 violent incidents in the area.
Census tract 14 includes the public housing community McDougald Terrace where the median household income is $28,000.
The citywide average number of homicides and aggravated assaults per 100,000 people from 2018 to 2020 was 338.
During a work session on Thursday afternoon, Durham City Council approved continuing an interlocal agreement with Durham County that will help fund the Gang Reduction Strategy.
As part of this agreement, the city will provide up to $170,000 that will go to help fund three positions that are geared toward curbing violence in these neighborhoods impacted by violence.
For instance, the funds will pay for half of the salary for the Gang Reduction Strategy manager, one full-time employee position for Project BUILD, and one-third of the salary for a position for a bilingual outreach worker.
Project BUILD is a program geared toward providing alternative programs and services to youth who live in these at-risk neighborhoods.
“It’s part of a multifaceted comprehensive approach to deal with gang violence and gangs in our county,” said Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton.
CBS 17 asked Middleton if there is a gang problem in Durham.
“It depends on who you ask,” Middleton said. “We know we have gangs in Durham, and we know some of our shootings and some of our gun violence have been attributed to gang activity.”
County officials have previously told CBS 17 that some gang members in Durham are recruiting as early as 11 years old.
The assessment also found its hard for kids to get out of gangs because of the school dropout rate, unemployment, substance use, and gang activity that continues in these neighborhoods.
Middleton said that funding the gang reduction strategy is geared toward giving these kids an alternative.
“When you have programs that give opportunities and alternatives to gang life, that helps,” Middleton said. “When you have people who are capable of speaking both English and Spanish working in the community to see what young people need to guide them and direct them toward other alternatives, that helps.”