'We need opportunity': Raleigh activist says spike in crime is result of lack of resources

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Desperate pleas for help can be heard in the 911 calls an emotional woman made to dispatchers pleading for help. On Monday night outside Food Lion in southeast Raleigh, shots hit and killed a man in the parking lot.

"I'm at Food Lion on Poole Road ...can you please hurry up! Can you please hurry up, please! Hello, I am on Poole Road at Food Lion ...please," the woman said.

Witnesses said they believe the shooting started as an argument between two men over a woman. Raleigh police said the victim was Trashawn Watkins, 19.

This shooting came several hours after Raleigh activist Kim Muktarian purchased dinner in this plaza. She said the spike in crime is the result of the lack of resources in minority communities.

"We need 100% opportunity for them to be able to access gainful employment that actually feeds and provides for their home bringing back our families, what was disconnected to be reconnected," Muktarian said.

During the past week, ABC11 counted 11 shootings in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Durham is already outpacing last year's total of 37 homicides. To date, 19 people have been killed this year. In Raleigh -- a total of 28 homicides last year. To date, at least 11 people have been killed this year.

Muktarian said she believes there are a multitude of solutions needed to help these communities, such as jobs, mentorship and funding.

She's calling on local and state leaders before more lives are lost.

"We have to change the policies that protect the vulnerable," Muktarian said.

Durham police released a statement citing gang activity as a key driver of the violence:

"Durham, like many other cities throughout the nation, is dealing with a gang problem. Officers with our gang unit work closely with other investigators and officers in our department to identify gangs, gang members and trends involving violent crime. Though we believe that some of these shootings are gang-related, we are unable to determine what percentage that may be.

We are always looking at ways that we can allocate resources to identified concerns and these shootings are no different. We have adjusted the schedules of several of our units to provide additional officers to patrol identified areas which allows for a faster response to these violent incidences. Also, using existing resources, we have created a centralized unit (Violent Crime Task Force) that will focus on violent crimes, specifically shooting cases. These investigators will work closely with not only additional units within the Police Department, but with other agencies as well as we continue to focus on reducing violent crime and gun violence.

Additionally, we are proactively working to address the root causes of violence. Our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) unit and CIT-trained officers work to address mental health concerns and provide assistance or referrals as necessary. Our Community Engagement Unit (CEU) officers work in many of Durham's housing communities to offer outreach activities to children, as well as adults, with the goal of fostering relationships to deter gang influence.

Our No. 1 priority has been and continues to be the safety and well-being of our community. We will continue to identify methods and best practices to aid us in this mission. However, our most valuable resource is the community we serve, for it is only with this partnership that we can work toward a safe community that we all expect and deserve."
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