DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Both Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead and Durham’s new Police Chief Patrice Andrews answered questions and addressed concerns from community members Thursday evening.
“This is going to take a community effort to address the gun violence that we are facing in Durham,” Birkhead said.
“We held a peace rally on Saturday where I and some residents met with some rival gang members. They actually called the meeting because they, too, are tired of the gun violence,” he went on to say.
The question-and-answer session with the sheriff and chief was part of a larger discussion on public safety.
The virtual event was hosted by Durham City-Wide Partners Against Crime (PAC). During the session, both Andrews and Birkhead acknowledged that a big problem their departments are noticing is illegal and stolen guns.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of guns being stolen overall,” Andrews said.
“We’ve had about 297 guns stolen, and that’s a 5-percent increase from this time last year. Fifty-three percent were from motor vehicles,” she explained.
Andrews also said Durham police have confiscated nearly 600 guns so far this year.
“Durham is a hotbed for gun distribution up and down the eastern seaboard,” Birkhead said.
The two also offered solutions. For instance, Birkhead said the sheriff’s office is increasing visibility in high crime areas.
However, he said it’s a plan they are implementing strategically.
“We don’t want to over-police our communities and we will not over police our communities,” he said.
Andrews, on the other hand, mentioned that work needs to be done to provide necessary resources to the community.
“We know people are not born committing crime. I feel, wholeheartedly, we must continue to invest in community-based programs,” Andrews said.
Andrews said her department provides some of those programs.
Birkhead stated he’s working to relaunch a program called Project Safe Neighborhoods to help address violent crime.