Violence interrupters hope to expand as Durham surpasses 800 shootings this year

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – There had been 804 shooting incidents and 267 people shot in Durham through the end of October. That number of incidents is a 30-percent increase from the same period in 2019 when there were 573 shootings.

Durham city leaders have said they cannot police their way out of this problem.

One thing Durham City Council is considering is partnering with Durham County and expanding the Bull City United violence interrupter program.

Ade Mason is the gang prevention and violent crime intervention program manager for Durham County. He said Bull City United is made up of three outreach workers and three violence interrupters.

“A violence interrupter is a person from a community that is experiencing violence,” Mason said.
He said these individuals either have criminal pasts or ties to troubled communities, which means they are often in the loop when conflicts are about to arise.

“When we hear street gossip, it’s not gossip — that’s violence that’s about to happen,” Mason said. “So they go in and they try to solve those issues on the street level so it doesn’t blow up into something more.”

Mason said an outreach worker will also sometimes go with the violence interrupters to these communities to help some of these individuals find employment or get a GED.

“It’s literally creating a support system for them that they can lean on and be confident and comfortable with as they turn their lives around,” Mason said.

Mason said funding currently only allows them to cover two areas of town: McDougald Terrace and the Southside community near Hillside Park.

“The team is only so big and a lot of stuff is happening outside of our target areas,” Mason said.

Over the last six months, he said 500 shootings happened in areas in the city they do not cover. He said that is why expanding the program is so important.

“The goal is to not only get them to stop doing these things, but it’s also to elevate them,” Mason said.

According to Bull City United’s website, shootings incidents in the program’s two target areas decreased from 85 to 61 (28 percent) from 2016 to 2018. The number of people shot decreased from 42 to 22 (52 percent).

Right now, the city is still in discussions about entering into a partnership with the county to expand the program. There was no word on when a decision will be made.

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