'One shooting is too much': Durham minister shares perspective on gun violence

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Friday, April 14, 2023
'One shooting is too much': Durham minister on gun violence
Shootings and criminal homicides in Durham have both increased in the first three months of 2023 compared to the same time period last year.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Shootings and criminal homicides in Durham have both increased over the first three months of 2023 compared to the same time period last year, as officials and advocates point to a series of programs and initiatives they hope will help reverse the trend.

The increase during the first quarter of the year follows a 10% drop in violent crime last year, which saw drops in several categories including aggravated assault and burglary.

"I think that here in Durham, we are dealing with an ethos of a violence," said Dr. Harold Dorrell Briscoe, a United Methodist Minister.

Briscoe participated in an ABC 11 Community Conversation a year ago regarding challenges facing Durham. As the Bull City has experienced population growth and large-scale economic development, it continues to grapple with issues such as affordability and crime.

"I think that as a society, we need to be judged on how we work for the high risk and underserved folks in our community," said Briscoe.

When it comes to gun violence, while Briscoe credited efforts of elected officials, he acknowledged results have been mixed.

"We have to remember that one murder is too much. One shooting is too much," said Briscoe.

There have been 229 shootings during the first quarter of 2023, up 26% from the same time period last year, though the number of people shot did drop slightly.

According to data compiled by ABC 11 I-Team Journalist Samantha Kummerer, between 2018-2022, the city averaged 36 homicides a year, though the figure was higher in both 2022 (45) and 2021 (50). Through April 1, there have been 13 homicides, up from nine in 2022 and eight in 2021.

"I think it's gotten worse since the pandemic. Obviously, it was not good before. We know that Durham has struggled with with violent crime gangs. But now you couple that with isolation, with just a feeling and sense of displacement almost. Kids were on their screens all day long if you had a screen or if you had technology, a lot of these kids fell behind. There's a compounded effect there," Briscoe said.

Thursday's shooting on Carter Avenue, in which a 17-year old was killed, was the 18th instance of an person younger than 18 injured this year, and the fourth in which a person died.

"There's a triple legs of the stool, social services, community engagement and law enforcement. And I think those three things have to work together really well," Briscoe said.

Briscoe pointed to the HEART Program, an unarmed response team which addresses mental health calls, as a positive the city has undertaken. Past that, he said he believes there needs to be a concerted effort toward funding social services.

"We've got to have greater support, institutional support, whether from the city, whether from the state to help some of these parents out when it comes to jobs, when it comes to child care, to help it like to be able to drop your child off and know that they are safe, that they are cared for," Briscoe said.

In December, the city launched a ShotSpotter Pilot Program, with results released this month showing a 94% gun-detection and location-performance rate, as officers responded following an alert within five minutes.

At an event Wednesday regarding a House bill calling for greater support for women in law enforcement, Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews told ABC11 that the department has about 140 vacancies.

"Recruiting and retention has been hard for us. The last couple of years law enforcement, it has really made officers question why do we do this work," Andrews said.

She shared that signing bonuses have proven successful in attracting candidates; on Thursday, April 20th, they are hosting a hiring event highlighting up to $13,000 of incentives. Base starting pay for Durham officers stands at $46,998.

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