Durham pastor seeks to curb crime by addressing poverty through grassroots plan

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The ongoing problem with gun violence in Durham has some families in crime-ridden neighborhoods constantly falling to the floor at the sound of gunfire in their communities.

According to data from Durham police, there have been 913 shooting incidents, 299 people have been shot, and 30 people have died from those gunshot wounds.

The number of people shot this year is up 39 percent from the 183 people who were shot this time last year.

One community that has been hit hard by the recent gun violence is the public housing community of McDougald Terrace.

Elizabeth Horne lives at McDougald Terrace with her two young children and she said they hear gunfire on a normal basis.

“Late in the night you can hear it,” Horne said. “Usually almost every day.”

Horne said every time her children hear the gunfire they know what to do.

“As soon as they hear the gunshots they automatically jump to the ground,” Horne said. “They’re scared to sit up, they would rather lay on the floor most of the time just to be safe. It’s sad.”

While Durham police have stepped up patrols in certain areas, some feel that the community should step up and do more to curb the violent crime.

“I feel that we here in the city of Durham need to do something to address these issues,” said Sylvester Williams, Pastor of Assembly at Durham Christian Center.

Williams said he as well as other pastors and community organizations are working on a plan to build a facility in the Braggtown area where former offenders and youth can go for job training.

“We have six acres of land that’s undeveloped,” Williams said.

Williams said the plan is to teach those individuals vocational skills such as carpentry, bricklaying, and plumbing.

He said they will also work with local companies to try to get these individuals hired.

In addition to job training, he said they are also looking at building affordable housing on this land as well.

“If you start eliminating the poverty, if you start showing people there’s a way out, you see less crime,” Williams said.

Williams said he has reached out to more than 100 churches as well as other organizations and he said the plan is to fund this project with their help.

“We feel that if we have a body of Christ come together as churches and take it upon ourselves to address these issues, then we’ll see change,” Williams said.

Williams said he will be meeting with Mayor Steve Schewel and Durham County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Brenda Howerton to discuss these efforts as well as concerns about a moratorium on evictions that is set to expire at the end of the year.

Williams said he will be pushing for local officials to provide funds for these individuals who are at risk of being evicted so they will have somewhere to stay during these winter months.

Schewel said he will be meeting with Williams soon and he is happy to support their efforts and the efforts of everyone who are trying to help out young people and former offenders.

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