Gun violence up this summer in North Carolina, but not in all communities

Samantha Kummerer Image
Thursday, September 8, 2022
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The number of shootings this summer increased by 4% in North Carolina compared to last year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The number of shootings this summer increased by 4% in North Carolina compared to last year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

In total, 243 people died across the state and 416 were injured from gun violence between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2020. Compared to last summer, these incidents led to 20 more deaths and 56 more injuries.

The number of incidents averaged out to an incident every 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Every time a bullet claims another person's life, Sheryl Smith relives the moment she lost her teenage son to gunfire.

A mother's pain endures

"It hurts and it continues to bring back my pain and the first thing that goes across my mind is, here's another mother that is going to experience this life of hell that I've been experiencing for this past, however many years that I've been experiencing since he's been gone," she said.

Smith is a Durham native and lost her son Todd in 2005.

"They killed him in a drive-by, he was just walking home from the store, minding his business with four bags of chips, him and his friend," she remembered.

For years, she lived in east Durham near Franklin Village but recently she said she relocated her and her five children because of continual shootings in the area.

"To get away from some of the shootings, to keep my children safe. That's the main reason," Smith explained.

The Gun Violence Archive reported 29 shootings that led to a death or injury in Durham this past summer, which is a 31% decrease from 2021.

However, Smith said she doesn't believe all areas are seeing this reduction and believes more needs to be done.

"That's why I continue to fight and speak out because they are my friends and family and some of them I don't know but I am speaking for them," Smith said. "I'm for the children. I'm for these kids to keep them safe and alive."

Raleigh reported 30 shootings, the same number as in 2021.

Charlotte reported the highest number of shootings in the state this summer at 86, a 51% rise from the previous summer. Seven more shootings occurred in Fayetteville.

'It's a tragedy' but what are solutions?

Becky Ceartas, the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCAGV), called the increase in some communities "tragic."

"It's a tragedy because of the sheer numbers of lives lost," Ceartas said. "One person can impact the whole family, the whole community. But then it's also a tragedy because there are policies and programs that can be put in place to save lives and we need our elected officials to do more."

She pointed to community violence intervention programs some communities have implemented as a possible solution. Both Durham and Greensboro have these programs in place and each also reported a decrease in shootings this past summer.

Ceartas explained these programs use a public health approach to prevent gun violence by addressing the root causes of gun violence, like housing, education and previous trauma. Her group is pushing for increased funding and expansion of these programs.

"These are programs that have been proven to save lives and we don't know why there are members of the General Assembly that aren't looking at the data, aren't thinking about the communities that are devastated by these deaths," Ceartas said.

NCAGV is pushing for lawmakers who support these efforts and curb the summer violence uptick.

"This is something unfortunately summer after summer, we see an uptick in gun violence. That's why our elected officials need to be proactive in passing policies and programs and funding programs that have been proven to save lives," Ceartas said.

Ceartas also said communities could make a difference by starting after-school programs.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing perpetrators that are younger and younger. And so our youth need more to do, more mentorship, more support," she said.

Smith has worked with police and city leaders for years on ideas to reduce crime in her previous east Durham neighborhood. She also said she believes more afterschool programs and community centers are part of the answer to keeping kids from getting affected by crime.

"Work together and it can be done. Because that's how we did it in Franklin Village but the problem is getting our elected officials and the authorities to work with the right people," Smith said.

Sunday and Saturday are still the most common days for gun violence incidents.