DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As Durham continues to grapple with the problem with gun violence, members of the group Bull City United said they are constantly working to address the problem through conducting mediations in the community.
Funded by both city and county tax dollars, Bull City United is made up of 25 members who have been through the criminal justice system and who have ties to some of the at-risk communities in Durham.
Bull City United members work as either violence interrupters or outreach workers in six different neighborhoods in Durham, which include Fayetteville Street near Dawkins, McDougald Terrace, Oxford Manor, Cornwallis Road, the St. Teresa neighborhood and the Golden Belt area near downtown.
According to a report Bull City United presented to Durham City Council members- during a work session on Thursday, BCU conducted 1,365 mediations in these six neighborhoods during the 2022 fiscal year.
“In my eyes and the eyes of our staff, this program is working tremendously,” said David Johnson, the Bull City United Supervisor.
It was at the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year when Bull City United started their expansion and the group went from seven members to 25.
The report also showed that in two of the census tracts they cover, there were zero shootings in the last three months of the fiscal year.
“Once Bull City United expanded, we saw a decrease in gun violence in these neighborhoods,” said Keshia Gray, a member of Bull City United.
City Council members praised Bull City United for their efforts on addressing violent crime.
“You put your lives on the line every day that you go to work,” Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal told members of BCU during the city council work session.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Anthony Middleton agreed with Mayor O’Neal.
“Know you’re making a different, keep doing the work, keep pushing the program,” Middleton said.
On Monday night, Durham County Commissioners are expected to approve funding for Bull City United. According to the agenda, $65,000 will go toward Cure Violence training for the members and $238,000 will go toward funding temporary staffing positions.
A county spokesperson said the temporary positions will be available in case if any of their current violence interrupter or outreach worker positions become vacant.
Some people who live in the communities that these violence interrupters work in still have questions about the work the group does.
“We need to know the work that they’re doing and see the work that they’re doing, not just hear about it at a city council meeting,” said Sharon Strudwick, who lives off Cornwallis Road.
Strudwick said she has not seen the violence interrupters in her community, and she said the shootings are still happening.
“If they’re getting paid by the city then they have to be accountable for every red cent,” Strudwick said.
Strudwick is asking for more transparency from Bull City United and she said she would like to see the group hold a public forum where the community can ask questions.
“Anyone in Durham should be able to walk up to them and talk to them, or reach them by the phone,” Strudwick said. “They need to be assessible.”
CBS 17 reached out to Durham County about Strudwick’s concerns.
Durham County spokesperson Dawn Dudley got back with CBS 17 late Monday and said that Bull City United does regularly engage with the community they serve through community events such as back to school activities, week of peace, safe summer, end of the year and other activities.
Dudley said that BCU is a non-traditional program employing the Cure Violence Global approach that often requires working with residents behind the scenes to mitigate potentially violent situations.
Dudley added that team members possess a social capital with those they serve and must maintain confidentiality as they do their jobs, which means some of what the team does cannot be made public.