Victims' loved ones unite in Raleigh as homicides spike across the Triangle

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- We've spent a lot of time these past few weeks talking about the frightening numbers -- like the new ones from Durham PD this week: 622 shootings through the end of November; 32 of them fatal; Already more than the past two years.

The numbers from Raleigh this week were just as alarming: 29 homicides so far this year; Already a dozen more than last year's total of 17.

Raleigh sees 29th homicide of 2019; most since 2008

These are a lot more than numbers. There was a chance to see the human toll of the Triangle's rise in violence.

"My life, my family's life, changed that night," said Stephanie Thomas, surrounded by candles, photos of homicide victims and the comforting faces of the families who lost them.

Thomas came to Tuesday night's homicide victims vigil at the State Capitol to retell the story of her father's murder in 2015. 64-year old Thomas Durand, the beloved owner of Mr. Pawn on Capital Boulevard, was shot and killed in what was an hours-long Raleigh crime-spree.

4 years later, Durand's daughter is still healing and struck by the new surge in violence.

"After I lost Dad, when you see reports of homicide on the news, it hits different," Thomas said. "You know what those families are going through."

Southeast Raleigh City Councilor Corey Branch talking to ABC11 tonight -- a day after Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown went on the record with us -- about an especially violent weekend in the city.

Deck-Brown said the rise in gun violence, but called on the community to step up. At the same, many community advocates said it's the police that needs to do more.

"We have to come together and work together," Branch said. "It's not about pointing fingers. That day is over with."

Branch said there are limits to what city government can do. His solutions to stopping the violence start with creating more opportunity in the marginalized communities seeing the most bloodshed: more jobs, more affordable housing.

"What we have to do is try to figure out what is the baseline," Branch said. "What is causing all this anger?"

Back at the Capitol, moms, dads, grandparents and friends of homicide victims remembered together - with a looming reminder that this crisis is much more than statistics.

"The numbers are important because they represent people," said Scott Bass, Director of Victim Services at the NC Victim Assistance Network. "And they're not so important if we give more value to 30 than to one."

Four years since her father's murder, Stephanie Thomas seems fed up with necessity to keep counting.

"It gets to a point where you think, when does (the violence) stop," she said. "Because all of this is senseless."

Tuesday's vigil at the Capitol was sponsored the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network. It was the 3rd annual vigil - organized as a way to mark Homicide Victims Awareness Month.
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