Durham looks to curb murders, violence

January 3, 2012 2:57:44 PM PST
Durham's first murder of the year has captured the attention of city leaders. It comes in the wake of dozens of murders last year that sparked a community-wide effort to try and stop the violence.

The city just wrapped up a campaign to curb celebratory gunfire. Now, that's the sort of thing police and city leaders will do to try to fight crime.

Gunfire erupted at a Durham apartment complex yesterday, marking the Bull City's first homicide. Police blame a longstanding feud between the victim and the alleged shooter, 26-year-old Brandon Jones, who is now facing murder charges.

Shortly after it happened, Durham Mayor Bill Bell says he went to the scene. Now, he's offering a promise to Durham citizens.

"I can tell you it's going to be my number one focus this year," said Bell. "Due to crime in this community and, I've said it over and over again, it's not an issue police and law enforcement can do by themselves. It's going to take a community effort."

That's the message Durham's police department has offered in the past while some crime has escalated. The city closed out 2011 with 26 murders compared to 25 the year before and 21 two years ago.

"I don't want to do a performance evaluation of the police department in the public media," said Bell. "But the chief understands the importance of it. I think it's good they're coming to the table with open minds."

"We never want to sit back on status quo," said Durham police Lt. Patrice Vickers.

The top brass at police headquarters admit they're now forced to think outside the box when it comes to reducing the number of homicides. Meetings involving the city manager, mayor, police chief and the sheriff are focused on gun crimes, which is one of the greatest threats to the Durham's progress.

"One incident could pretty much obliterate all the efforts that we've made moving this community forward and we want to try to prevent that from happening," said Bell.

From educating the public to possibly lobbying for new laws, city leaders say several solutions are on the table.

"We always, regardless whether your homicide rate is zero or 26, we always want to take a look and find out what can we do to make this rate decrease," said Vickers.

City and county leaders will meet again Wednesday to discuss some of those possible solutions. They're promising action to back up those new ideas.

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