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After gun violence uptick, Durham mayor says 'we are a city in pain'

Bull statue Durham
Shawn Blanchard via Flickr

Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal says ending gun violence in the city should be everyone's priority.

It was a major focus of her first "State of the City" speech, which she made during a city council meeting Tuesday night. O’Neal addressed those who have been affected by violence.

"As the leader of our city and as a mother, I am grieving with you,” she said. “I also want to recognize the citywide trauma our residents are feeling. We are a city in pain."

16 people in Durham have been shot and killed so far in just the first three-and-a-half months of this year. The city's police chief recently announced a new unit focused on gun violence.

But O’Neal said affordable housing is the most important part of her strategy to end the surge of gun violence in the city. She said she is reconvening the mayor's crime cabinet which was disbanded two years ago. Housing is the first issue they will tackle.

"That's a complex issue, and the Durham crime cabinet knows that it is all interconnected. If you do not have a safe place to lay your head, all bets are off for success,” she said.

O’Neal said the city is considering purchasing properties to turn into affordable housing for teachers, police and first responders.

A former North Carolina District Court Judge, O'Neal was elected Mayor of Durham in 2021, the first Black woman to serve in that position.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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