Wave of Durham violence sparks call for change

May 20, 2011 1:09:58 PM PDT
A series of fatal shootings and no arrests has some calling for change in Durham.

The latest violence left a 13-year-old girl texting on her cell phone while sitting in an apartment complex parking lot dead.

There have been 11 homicides in Durham so far this year and investigators say perhaps three or four could be gang related.

"Time out for the Blood and the Crips. That's not the way," offered Diana Billings, whose 13-year-old granddaughter Shakahah China was the girl who died.

China's family says they think the drive by shooting was gang related. Police say they don't know the motive yet.

Otis Lyons, a former gang member turned community advocate with the group Campaign 4 Change, paints a grim picture.

"Law enforcement can't solve this problem," he offered. "It's chaos in the streets and it seems like no one is really focusing on the major problem."

That problem, according Lyons, will require a community effort.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell says the city recently reactivated a committee to take a closer look at youth crime.

"Anytime you have any life taken, that's tragic," said Bell.

Bell says the city is taking the issue seriously.

"I don't want anyone to think this isn't a high priority for city officials, for persons in this community. We had somewhat of an issue like this when I first came to office, and what we did was look at who was really being impacted," said Bell.

But the path to progress can be challenging. A gang intervention program Lyons says he developed, hasn't been well-received in local schools - the one place where gangs recruit new members who are often eager to earn street "cred" by killing.

"We need to focus more on putting dollars into intervention and prevention programs," said Lyons.

Durham police say their investigations into the recent fatal shootings are ongoing. They also say to solve the cases, they need more people willing to come forward.

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