Durham Council approves funding to tackle gang activity

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DURHAM, NC (WNCN) — Neighborhoods in Durham where families experience extreme poverty and social vulnerabilities are disproportionately affected by gun violence in the city, according to a recent gang assessment.

According to the latest Durham Gang Assessment, there are 12 census tracks or wards in Durham that are experiencing an excessive amount of violence, which includes aggravated assault and homicide.

Census tract 14 in Durham recorded the highest number of homicides and aggravated assaults per 100,000 population from 2018 to 2020, as there were 2,545 violent incidents in the area.

Census Tract 14 includes the McDougald Terrace public housing community where the median household income is $28,000.

The citywide average number of homicides and aggravated assaults per 100,000 population from 2018 to 2020 was 338.

During a business session on Thursday afternoon, Durham City Council approved the pursuit of an inter-local agreement with County Durham that will help fund the gang reduction strategy.

As part of this agreement, the city will provide up to $170,000 to fund three positions aimed at reducing violence in these violence-affected neighborhoods.

For example, the funds will pay for half the salary of the gang reduction strategy manager, a full-time staff position for the BUILD project and one-third the salary of a bilingual worker position.

Project BUILD is a program aimed at providing alternative programs and services to young people who live in these at-risk neighborhoods.

“This is part of a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to dealing with gang and gang violence in our county,” said Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton.

CBS 17 asked Middleton if there was a gang problem in Durham.

“It depends on who you ask,” Middleton said. “We know we have gangs in Durham, and we know some of our shootings and some of our gun violence have been attributed to gang activity.”

County officials previously told CBS 17 that some Durham gang members are recruiting as young as 11.

The assessment also revealed that it is difficult for children to get out of gangs due to the school dropout rate, unemployment, substance use and gang activity that continues in these neighborhoods.

Middleton said the funding for the gang reduction strategy was intended to give these children an alternative.

“When you have programs that provide opportunities and alternatives to gang life, that helps,” Middleton said. “When you have people who can speak both English and Spanish working in the community to see what young people need to guide them and point them towards other alternatives, that helps.”

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