DURHAM N.C. (WNCN) – With shootings and homicide rates already passing numbers from this time last year, violent crime in Durham is the top concern for candidates seeking office in county law enforcement.

Wednesday night, candidates for Durham Sheriff, District Attorney, Clerk of Court and Board of Education all met to address safety concerns in the community.

Earlier the same day, Durham’s Police Department reported a total of 16 homicides this year. That’s up from nine this time last year.

“We need to stop the gun violence, whether it’s gang-related, whether it’s domestic-related, whether it’s whatever issues we have,” Daniel Meier, candidate for District Attorney, said. “We’ve had six homicides over the last six days and they run the gambit from domestic to gang to robberies gone bad.”

Police responded to a triple shooting on Saturday and a separate deadly shooting the same day.

On Tuesday night, police responded to two deadly shootings within an hour.

“This past week in Durham has been a huge tragedy for all of Durham,” Durham County Sheriff running for re-election, Clarence Birkhead said.

During his responses Wednesday night, Birkhead said he’s increased partnerships with surrounding sheriff’s offices. He’s trying to reduce the number of guns on the street with the buyback program, as well as trying to help the police department address recent crime.

Birkhead’s challenger and former Sheriff’s office major, Paul Martin said more needs to be done to address the illegal drug trade in the county.

“The whole thing everybody’s missing is the cultural decline caused by the drug trade and the destruction of the nuclear family,” Martin said. “The drugs drive all the violence even though it’s not directly related.”

Current District Attorney seeking re-election, Satana Deberry, also touted increased communication between her office and local and federal partners during investigations.

“We have been laser-focused on violence, we have restored relationships with law enforcement agencies in Durham county that were lost in my predecessors,” Deberry said.

Wednesday, candidates for both the Sheriff and DA offices said approaching violence means more than arrests or prosecution, but prevention starts with kids.

“I think it’s just working with the community to try and put an end to what’s going on,” Jonathan Wilson, candidate for District Attorney, said. “It’s also working with the school boards, working with county commissioners.”

“What the schools can do is start vocational again to stop looking down on the working class,” Martin said.

“We have to reach our young people, we can’t just target them and arrest them,” Birkhead said. “We have to reach them and provide them opportunities for an alternative lifestyle.

Statewide primary elections take place on May 17.