DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – While shootings and homicides are up in Durham, a new group known as New Durham Vision has started working to prevent violence in the city.
Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal introduced this group to the public during Monday night’s state of the city address.
“I’ve called them reformers, but they’re really ‘shot callers,’ and they’ve been able to help quell some of this violence,” O’Neal said during her address.
O’Neal has said for weeks she has been working behind the scenes with these individuals to help combat the problem of shootings.
The group consists of 11 individuals who have a history with the justice system.
“We all are ex-offenders, we come from criminal-minded behavior,” said Dennis Garrett, team leader for New Durham Vision.
Garrett said what happens is he will get a call about a situation that’s escalating in the community that could lead to violence if it’s not addressed. He’ll then call one of the group’s members and they will respond to the scene.
“It might be a beef going on between two different sides of the city,” Garrett said. “We try do an intervention and prevent violence so there’s outcome. We don’t go in being bullies, we don’t go in being the police, we go in to try to be part of the solution.”
The group formed in November, and Garrett said they invited Mayor O’Neal to come talk with them about gun violence. He said sometimes she will respond with them to some of these situations.
“The mayor will walk with us, hand in hand, in the community,” Garrett said.
Garrett did not have an exact number for now many mediations they have done, but he said they have started to respond to fewer situations since their group formed in November.
Thomas Caraway is one of the eleven members of New Durham Vision.
He said sometimes it will be multiple times in a week that he will get a call from Garrett or from the mayor about a situation that they need to help address.
“Five or six times a week, it varies, it depends on how busy the neighborhoods are,” Caraway said. “Anything that happens, I get called late at night to try to defuse the situation.”
The group also has a youth ambassador, 18-year-old Dennis Garrett Jr. who will respond to shootings where youth are involved.
“For example, there was a shooting out there at Lakemoor Apartments and I went out there to make sure the kids were ok,” Garrett Jr. said.
Garrett Jr. said that he talks to the youth in these communities about what they need to try to help make their communities safer.
“It hurts because they are younger than me,” Garrett Jr. said. “It’s not normal for a kid to be okay with a shooting happening right outside their front door. It’s not normal for an adult to hear gunshots and think, ‘oh it’s just another day in the neighborhood.’”
Currently, Garrett said New Durham Vision is funded by his non-profit organization Love and Respect and he said they are not receiving any funding from the city.
Garrett said they need more funding so they can continue to send these individuals out and help make a difference.
“We can’t stop the violence, but we definitely want to slow it down,” Garrett said.
If you would like to donate to the New Durham Vision contact Dennis Garrett at 919-672-0934.