Former Durham gang member offers free haircuts, tries to steer kids away from gun violence

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As the number of shootings in Durham continues to soar, an activist is hoping to cut down on violence as he offers free haircuts to the community all week.

Robert Belcher, founder of the group, a Chance 2 Change, has created a makeshift barber shop at the intersection of Fayetteville Street and East Piedmont Avenue.

At 11:30 on Monday morning, Belcher set up small tent, his generator, some barber tools, and began offering free haircuts to anyone who wanted one.

“It’s mainly for the people who can’t afford it, we’re trying to help them out, especially during the time of the pandemic,” Belcher said.

Belcher said part of his organization’s mission is to steer young people away from gun violence.         

“I’m trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” Belcher said.

In Durham so far this year, 189 people have been shot and 26 of those have been teenagers and children.

Durham police said some of the shootings have been gang related.

Belcher is a former gang member and he said kids often turn to gangs because they do not have anywhere else to turn.

“It’s something that you have to do because of the situation you are in,” Belcher said.

Belcher said with the free haircuts, he is hoping to help steer young people into a different direction.

“It’s a time where I can really sit down and do a heart-to-heart with them,” Belcher said.

He said some kids he met on Monday said they were even interested in learning barbering.

“If I could teach you a craft to help you make money, that will keep you off of the streets and keep you from shooting at somebody else, then you don’t have to deal with what’s going on out here in the street,” Belcher said.

Belcher said he is asking the city and the community to focus more on getting to the root cause of the issue and less on over policing.

“We want the city to get behind the community and let us win back our city,” Belcher said. “It will be a win-win for everybody.”

Durham police said they have increased patrols in areas where the recent shootings have occurred and detectives are also working closely with the department’s gang task force in an effort to solve these crimes.

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