Shootings up 40% in Durham this year; sheriff says plans underway for violent crime unit

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The number of people shot in Durham is up 40 percent compared to last year, according to police data.

Data shows there have been 882 shooting incidents, 291 people have been shot and 28 of those people have died so far this year.

City officials have said that COVID-19 and gang activity are two factors that are to blame.

Several of the incidents have been drive-by shootings or rolling gun battles where stray bullets have struck innocent victims.

“Unfortunately, bullets are going through cars, going through homes and windows, and innocent people are being injured and killed,” said Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead.

Birkhead said he has been working closely with Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis and both agencies have stepped up their enforcement.

So far this year, Durham police have seized 582 firearms and the sheriff’s office has seized 213 weapons.

Birkhead said the firearms they seized have been everything from hand guns to assault weapons that have been seized in various incidents, which include traffic stops and drug busts.

“Even though we’ve seized those 200 weapons, there’s still too many weapons on the street that end up in the hands of those who use them to perpetrate some of the violence that were seeing,” Birkhead said. “We have to have other avenues that we can approach this from.”

Birkhead said he is in support of stricter gun legislation that would require gun owners to properly secure their weapons, or else they could be held accountable if their gun is stolen and used in a crime.

“I support the Second Amendment, wholeheartedly, in its entirety. But I want people who advocate owning weapons to be responsible with it,” Birkhead said.

In addition to pushing for stricter gun legislation, Birkhead said his office is currently working on creating a new unit focused on violent crime and catching those responsible for the recent shootings.

“We know that it’s a small number of individuals who are committing the bulk of the violent crime in Durham,” Birkhead said. “I’m convinced if we can identify those individuals, apprehend them, and bring them to justice, then we can curb much of the gun violence in Durham.”

Birkhead also talked about how there is a high repeat offender rate in Durham.

For instance, Armand Lewis-Langston was arrested and released from jail the same day after he was charged with possession of a firearm by felon on Oct. 22.

Then, three weeks later, Lewis-Langston was one of two men charged with shooting an off-duty deputy on Nov. 14.

“We continue to see the same individuals again and again and we encounter them over and over,” Birkhead said. “Something has to be done when these individuals continue to break the law and continue to demonstrate that they’re not willing to play by the same norms that we all have accepted. We need to hold them accountable and unfortunately incarceration is the next step.”

Birkhead said he will release more information about his plans to create a unit focused on violent crime next week.

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