DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham Police Department held its annual National Night Out event Tuesday.

Police Chief Patrice Andrews said positive outreach and events like National Night Out are important tools to open conversations with youth who otherwise would only see police when crime happens in the neighborhood.

“It just doesn’t stop with the one event, right? So there has to be a continuous amount of work being done,” Andrews said. “It helps to humanize us, but it also helps to bring us together as well.”

Durham’s National Night Out comes at a busy time for DPD, with two fatal shootings over the past week. 

Latest city data through September shows homicides up slightly from 2022 and shootings up by more than 100 over this time last year.

Andrews candidly addressed the rise in shootings and homicides across the city during Tuesday night’s event.

“Gun violence is so prevalent everywhere, right. And I don’t know that I can attribute it back to any one thing. I just know that it feels like and some of our data shows that we are seeing it most commonly in our in our babies, in our juveniles, you know, in our kids,” Andrews said.

She says staffing is another key concern for the department. With 135 officer vacancies, Andrews says it puts pressure on those currently on patrol.

“I’m not happy about the fact that we are, the staffing is where it is right now,” Andrews said. “I certainly hope that by just someone who’s out here that maybe is thought about a career in law enforcement just by interacting, maybe they’ll actually go over there and sign up.”