DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As gun violence continues to be a problem in Durham, the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force is asking for city funding to hold “listening sessions” with gun violence survivors in hopes of helping to better address the problem.
On Thursday afternoon, co-chairs Marcia Owen and Xavier Cason, and Duke Health pediatric surgeon Henry Rice, spoke at the Durham City Council work session about the problem with gun violence and how holding listening sessions with survivors can help them victims heal and help the city figure out a way to prevent future shootings.
Owen said the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force is seeking $112,113 from the city to help pay facilitators who will meet with gunshot wound survivors.
“By asking them and giving them a minimum of eight hours of non-judgmental listening, they can ask that critical question, ‘what needs to be done to make things as right as possible?’” Owen said.
This comes as over the past two years, the Duke emergency room has seen a 52 percent increase in gunshot victims.
In 2020, 318 people were shot in Durham, which is up from the 189 shot in 2019, according to Durham police.
Duke Hospital treated more than 215 gunshot wound victims in 2019 and 280 in 2020.
So far, in the fiscal year 2021, there have been 393 gunshot wound survivors and victims’ brought into Duke Hospital, according to the community safety task force’s proposal.
Duke Health Pediatric Surgeon Henry Rice spoke before city council on Thursday afternoon. He said he was working the night when six youths were shot while riding in the stolen SUV on Mathison Street on December 13.
Rice said he cared for the four surviving children who were shot.
“Frankly, I’m getting sick of taking bullets out of children, I don’t want to do it anymore,” Rice said. “I was struck by how routine these events have become. We simply don’t do enough.”
While some city council members felt open to the idea of funding this new initiative, they were also concerned about the timing of this proposal and if this would put too much on the city’s community safety department when they are still working on launching other pilot programs.
“I’m not really inclined to put anything else on them,” Mark-Anthony Middleton, Durham’s Mayor Pro Tem said.
But other city council members said they don’t want to wait too long before they move forward with this initiative that could help address the problem of gun violence.
Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero said if the Community Safety Department can’t take this on, they need to find another department that can.
“I urge my colleagues, while we may need to pause for some small details, I am asking folks to lean in the moment and trust the folks who are asking for this resource,” Caballero said.
The proposal has been sent back to city staff for further review.