Mayor says 'Durham is a safe city' despite having 6 homicides in 16 days

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- With less than three weeks into 2019, it has already been a very violent year for Durham. Now city and county officials are working together to curb the issue.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, and Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead met Thursday to discuss the increase in violence, specifically target gun violence.

"Nothing is more important to the leadership of this city than reducing gun violence and ending these personal tragedies," Schewel said while standing at a podium. "Those are the top of our list of priorities. We spend more money, more effort, more time, and more people power on this than anything else we do in the city of Durham to keep our city safe."

In 2018, there were 866 gun-related crimes in Durham. While that number may seem high, Schewel said it's fewer than those crimes in 2017, 2016, and 2015.

"Crimes with a gun in Durham were down 20 percent from the year before," he said. "This is a huge number. As I say, I doubt any other cities or certainly not many other cities in this country have had that kind of achievement in a reduction in gun crime."

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There have already been a total of six homicides in 2019 (five in the city, one in the county); four of which have been domestic cases.

Related stories on the six killings:
Man who killed father in Durham home sent photos of body to coworker, warrants say

Durham police charge 2 in New Year's Day double homicide

Woman and baby dead in murder, attempted suicide in Durham

Police ID man killed in Durham shooting

"The numbers of violent incidents that have occurred so far in 2019 are absolutely inconsistent with crime patterns we experienced during the same period in 2018," Davis said. "... although the new year has gotten off to a challenging start, we plan to utilize all of the resources available to us to ensure we curtail this recent uptick."

On Wednesday, Durham police warned about a rash of cab robberies.

Each time, the suspect held the cab driver at gunpoint, getting away with less than $100.

The Durham Police Department plans to increase officer visibility and patrols in areas where crimes have recently occurred.

It also holds weekly intelligence meeting in which internal and external partners (including the Durham County Sheriff's Office) meet to share crime data and suspect information.

They're also asking for the public's help too. They're urging people to call the CrimeStoppers hotline at (919) 683-1200 with any information that could solve these cases.

Schewel said while the crimes committed in 2019 have been "terrible," he doesn't want residents to lose hope or '"sight of the big picture."

"Durham is a safe city," he said. "A city that is safer than most cities of our size in this country. Gun crime is not up this year. In fact, in the last year, due to the good work of many, many people, of our police and our community gun violence in Durham is actually way down."
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