'Committed to making this community safe as possible': Race for top Durham County Sheriff heats up

Josh Chapin Image
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Race for top Durham County Sheriff heats up ahead of election
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The race for the top law enforcement job in Durham County is heating up.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The race for the top law enforcement job in Durham County is heating up.

Incumbent Sheriff Clarence Birkhead was out Wednesday night at church on Holloway Street talking about voter registration as well as how people can expunge their records.

Challenger Maria Jocys was at a house in a Durham neighborhood meeting and greeting people.

Both are confident in their position before Election Day.

"I raised my children in this community and I'm committed to making this community as safe as possible," Birkhead said. "Birkhead is your choice and I want people to believe in the successes we've had."

Sheriff Birkhead, who has served as the sheriff since the end of 2018, said he's as concerned with rising gun violence as much as anyone.

He created a STRIKE team that works closely with neighboring counties to find the most violent offenders. He also said he's about to bring back Project Safe Neighbors, a partnership with the US Attorney's Office to identify other people committing violent crime.

Jocys might not have as much name recognition but she's retired from the FBI and spent the last five years investigating gang violence in Durham.

Her investigation helped bring 9-year-old Z'Yon Person's killer to justice and became the first case to be prosecuted federally in Durham because of gang violence.

"We have to try something because nothing is being tried," Jocys said. "We come up with a plan to see if it works and engage with people who are most in need of relief from gun violence, gang activity and get them in partnership."

Jocys said it's necessary to drill down on partnerships with the ATF, the DEA and the "experienced" gang task force with the Durham Police Department, and to go directly into neighborhoods affected by gun violence.

Her goal is to bring resources to those known to need it the most.