'Most effective way to reduce violence.' Increase in guns seized as violent crime declines in Durham

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BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Durham Sheriff's Office reports increase in guns seized
The Durham County Sheriff's Office reported its deputies seized 243 weapons last year and had people voluntarily surrender 500 guns.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Durham County Sheriff's Office reported its deputies seized 243 weapons last year and had people voluntarily surrender 500 guns. This is 16% more guns than the office seized in 2021.

A further breakdown of the data shows 13% of the guns were stolen.

The Sheriff's Office was unavailable to comment further on Tuesday, but Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said in a written statement, "The DCSO Anti-Crime and Narcotics Unit (SAC/NARC) and other strategic crime-fighting initiatives are making progress across Durham County."

Violence prevention advocates told ABC11 while decreasing the number of guns on the street is a good thing, more needs to be done to reduce crime.

"Seizing guns and getting them off the street definitely reduces the likelihood of a fatal interaction. But in order to really reduce gun violence, we have to think about what are the proactive health-based solutions," said Gregory Jackson, the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund.

Jackson's national organization strives to reduce gun violence specifically in Black and Brown communities. He said leaders need to view gun violence as a public health issue.

"The most effective way to reduce violence and violent crime are to serve and focus on those who are most at risk with people-centered approaches and resources. And that actually starts with survivors," he said.

Jackson said things like better-supporting survivors, violence intervention, hospital-based intervention, and working with at-risk youth and at-risk young adults can all drastically reduce crime.

"We've also seen if you have a combination of street intervention, hospital intervention and services for survivors. Certain cities have seen reductions of 50 to 60% in violence just by investing proactively in these efforts," Jackson said pointing to the results.

ABC11's neighborhood crime tracker shows violent crime is trending down in the last 12 months in the Durham area. Homicides, assaults and robberies are all decreasing compared to the year before. But advocates like Jackson would like to see these rates drop even lower by leaders taking innovative approaches.

"If we're just focusing on the hardware, if we're just focusing on access to guns, then you'll always see small reductions in violence, especially in a country where guns are very easy targets to access," he said.

Jackson applauded Durham's organization-, Bull City United's work for their street intervention and violence prevention work. He also pointed to Raleigh's recent commitment of $2 million to tackle new violence prevention strategies.

He said efforts like these are needed to push violent crime further down.

"We're seeing a wave of these programs starting to be launched across North Carolina. And so we're excited to see North Carolina really catching up with what we've seen work in other cities across the country, but also leading in the south," Jackson said.

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