DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As shootings in Durham continue to rise, the Durham County sheriff and Durham police chief are asking leaders in the faith community to get involved and help.
Around 100 people met outside the Mount Vernon Baptist Church on Saturday to address the disturbing rise in shootings.
North Carolina Chief District Court Judge Pat Evans shared a sobering message with the crowd.
“We are here because young Black men are dying at alarming numbers in Durham,” she said. “And that is not acceptable to me.”
Shootings in Durham have increased by 40% this year compared to last, according to the Durham Police Department.
“The unusual changes that we see, is that many of the violent crimes we’re seeing are committed by young people,” said Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis.
As of Saturday, Durham police data shows there have been at least 747 reported shootings, 241 people hit by bullets, and 25 people who have been killed by them.
“Black lives matter, and unfortunately, some have died at the hands of police,” said Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead. “But more have died at the hands of those who look like them. We have to be honest about this.”
Both the sheriff and police chief told the crowd law enforcement can’t fix the problem by arresting people.
Davis explained, “We don’t get pleasure in putting young Black men in jail.”
She added, “We need to find solutions that keep our children out of jail and keep out 9- and 10-year olds safe.”
They’re calling on Black clergy members to get more involved in fighting crime by lifting up the community. The sheriff also encouraged that some should run for elected office.
“Imagine… We start filing our elected seats with like-minded individuals who are out here today; folks who are committed to addressing these issues,” Birkhead said.
Durham City Councilman Mark Anthony Middleton told the crowd the Bull City is in “a state of emergency” and called on the community to hold city leaders accountable.
“We should be storming the gates at city hall petitioning us to push every button,” he explained of how outraged the community should be. “What is more important than our babies dying? What is more important than our children dying? What shall our response be?”
Birkhead had this message for the young people of Durham. “We want our young people to know that we love them and we care for them and we need them.”
CBS17 spoke with Nehemiah Hunter, one of the few young people listening in the crowd.
“It’s nice to see that people actually care about us,” 15-year-old Hunter said of Saturday’s meeting. “Coming from a place where my parents, they take care of me good; I got both parents in my household, but seeing friends who don’t have their parents, I’m glad to see we got other people in neighborhood who care for them.”
Birkhead said they plan on holding another meeting in the soon to create a plan that will address the rise in shootings.
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