Durham city councilors divided on how to tackle gun violence as homicides rise

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – Homicides in Durham rose 32% from the same period last year according to Durham Police data – and some fear this year may be the deadliest year in the city.

Currently, the deadliest year on record in Durham is 2016 with 42 homicides.

Two men, Tavis Rhodes and Shamori Brown, were shot dead in a parking lot at North Carolina Central University on Saturday night during a football game. Police did not give more details about the shooting.

Durham City Councilor DeDreana Freeman met CBS 17 in the parking lot where the two were killed.

“It’s almost unbearable to think of how many people got scared this weekend and to know that is exactly where the lives of these young men were lost,” Freeman said.

Freeman urges other Durham city councilors to have a serious conversation about what can be done immediately to address gun violence.

“I don’t think we’re even having the conversation right now,” Freeman said. “We’re not even saying what’s possible to help our children and youth, to help them understand that their lives matter. “

Durham City Council voted in January to spend $ 1 million to expand its Stop Violence Program, a program that is made up of people who know crime-plagued communities and work to prevent violence. criminality.

Although the expansion includes the addition of 18 more violence interrupters and outreach workers, only 5 more people have been hired.

Meanwhile, the problem of gun violence continues to plague the city as there have been 579 shootings, 198 people have been shot and 32 of those people have died.

The Chancellor of the Central University of North Carolina, Dr Johnson Akinleye, asked Durham city councilors on Monday at a press conference to consider implementing ShotSpotter, a gun detection technology that automatically sends police to a shooting scene. The idea behind the technology is to create a faster response so that the police can catch more suspects.

ShotSpotter offered a six-month free trial in Durham last year, but not enough city councilors backed it up.

Durham City Councilor Javiera Caballero said she was not in favor of trying ShotSpotter.

Even though ShotSpotter offered a free trial, she was concerned that the city would end up spending taxpayer dollars after trying out the technology it says has not been effective in other cities.

“When we spend money on something that may not be the most efficient, it means that we are not able to spend the money on something that could have been more efficient,” said said Caballero.

Instead, Caballero said there needs to be stricter state-level gun reform.

She added that establishing the city’s new public security service and sending unarmed officers to mental health calls will help officers focus more on violent crime.

“I think that means we’re going to have better police because we’re going to have officers focused on investigating and resolving violent crime,” Caballero said.

Councilor Caballero said administrative staff are also working on a proposal to increase police salaries. She said she would be in favor of this because she said it is important for the city to fill all of its 69 vacant police positions.

Currently, it is not clear when this could be discussed.

Caballero is one of seven mayoral candidates for Durham in the upcoming municipal elections.

The City of Durham is also in the process of selecting a new police chief.

City officials are still completing a background investigation and the goal is to select a new leader by the end of the month.

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