DURHAM (WTVD) --Durham's interim police chief expressed consternation Thursday over fighting a losing battle with violent crime.
Chief Larry Smith says the past five days tell the story - nine shootings and two murders in the Bull City. So far this year, there have been 14 murders in Durham, which is well ahead of the record setting pace from 2015.
There's been plenty of other violent crime in the first four months of the year, and Smith is frustrated.
"Especially given the fact that we put an operation in place due to a rash of violence that we had just at the end of the quarter last year," Smith said.
Smith says robbery is one of the main crimes behind the recent rash of violence. Durham's most recent murder was an armed robbery gone bad.
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According to the interim chief, criminals are still targeting Latino communities. But, he adds, there's an even bigger factor.
"The most common denominator this time is that [the crimes] are drug related," Smith explained. "Now, the people who are involved in it, many of them have a gang background. But the driving factor of the homicides seems to be narcotic sales or turf wars."
In the spate of violence at the end of 2015, Durham police identified 19 suspects they said were behind most of the crime. Many of them have been arrested. However, the chief says a few of them have turned up on the list of 22 suspects behind a lot of the current crime.
Smith says after 28 years in law enforcement, he's shocked by how many young people are willing to pick up a gun at the slightest provocation and shoot at someone, no matter how many innocent people are in the way.
"There is a mentality, especially among some of the youngsters, they really don't care. They don't, they don't fear law enforcement," Smith told ABC11. "They don't fear going to jail. They don't fear dying. And that can be a dangerous person."
And, it's a foe that's very hard to fight. That's why the chief wants help from the community.
"It's time for people other than the police to be as outraged about what's going on in this city as we are. And it's a little frustrating at times to put everything you got at something and it doesn't seem to slow it down."
Smith pointed to one group called "Safe Neighborhoods" that tries to reach high-risk children before they commit to a life of crime. He suggested that other non-profits and churches try to help as well.
While that would be good in the long run, he says in the short-term they need people in the community to come forward with information about crimes to help get the bad guys off the streets. He's convinced there are people out there who have that information.
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