DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — On Monday night, Durham County Commissioners voted to spend $6 million to purchase the old Boys and Girls Club on East Pettigrew Street to turn it into the headquarters for the violence interrupter program, Bull City United.
Bull City United is a group of 25 individuals who went through the criminal justice system and who now serve as mediators in the community, where they work to prevent shootings.
Durham City Council approved spending $1 million to expand the program last year, and now the program needs more space.
“Bull City United expanded from seven employees to 25 employees in one year, so we were looking for places to be able to place staff, but also that would enable us to do more community interventions and community activities,” Durham County Manager Kimberly Sowell said on Monday night.
While county commissioners voted to purchase the building for $6 million and to put Bull City United in this building, Durham County Board of Commissioners Chair Brenda Howerton told CBS 17 that this building they purchased will not be for just Bull City United.
She said it will also be used for other programs and services and that community members will be able to have a say in what they put in this facility.
When CBS 17 asked why Durham County Commissioners acted so quickly to purchase this facility, she said they had to secure the building for the county before someone else purchased it.
Some folks in the community argue taxpayers should have been given more notice before county commissioners voted to approve purchasing this building for Bull City United.
“Why do they need a $6 million building, the city has plenty of recreational centers that they could use,” said Sheryl Smith, a community activist.
Smith said she would like to see the county use this building to provide more programs specifically for children, like the building was originally used for.
“I’d like to see more money used for these children, not these groups,” Smith said.
Smith also questions how effective Bull City United is at stopping violence.
“If you’re doing this wonderful job prove it,” Smtih said. “I would like to see some proof, not words, but proof.”
CBS 17 reached out to Bull City United for an interview about the work they do, but we have not heard back.
According to data CBS 17 obtained, Bull City United conducted 1,365 mediations in fiscal year 2022.
Bull City United works in six different communities which include McDougald Terrace, Oxford Manor, Cornwallis Road, the Hayti community, an area south of downtown and the Edgemont Elms area east of downtown.
Data from Durham County shows that in two of those communities which include the area south of downtown and Cornwallis Road, no one was shot from April 2022 to June 2022.
Sharon Strudwick lives off Cornwallis Road where gunfire is a problem in her community.
“You hear sirens from 4 o’clock in the morning, through all day long,” Strudwick said. “It’s got where you don’t want to go out. You just have to pray and push on.”
Strudwick said she has seen an increase in police officers in her community in recent months and she said she hopes this continues.
“I would love to continue to see police presence and not just driving up and down the street, but walking in the community you need to know the people that live in the community,” Strudwick said.
As CBS 17 has previously reported, we obtained a copy of Durham Police’s violent crime plan of action which includes doing traffic stops, knock and talks, and patrols in target areas, which include the area near Cornwallis Road and Fayetteville Street.
CBS 17 asked Strudwick if she has seen Bull City United violence interrupters working in her community.
“I don’t even know who they are, I couldn’t identify them because I’ve never seen anybody that is affiliated with Bull City United,” Strudwick said. “I really should know who they are and be able to contact them when something is happening.”