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Durham group combats violence in crime-ridden neighborhoods

January 5, 2019

The year got off to a violent start in Durham, with three people shot to death on New Year’s Day, but a local group is working to put a stop to such violence.

Bull City United is hosting vigils and other events across Durham through next Monday as part of its third-annual “Week of Peace.”

“The Week of Peace is for the whole city of Durham, to just challenge everybody – no violence for a week,” said the organization’s supervisor, Dorel Clayton. “We would hope it’d be extended a month and a year.”

Crime statistics from the Durham Police Department show almost 2,000 cases of violent crime occurred in the city last year.

Bull City United focuses on neighborhoods that see the most violence – its office is in the McDougald Terrace housing complex – so people in those neighborhoods to feel violent crime is part of a normal day.

“There is a better way of life. We don’t have to commit violence,” Clayton said.

Many on the group’s staffers, including Clayton, are convicted criminals who turned their lives around. Some are even former gang members.

“I’m able to talk to someone that’s been incarcerated because I’ve been incarcerated. So, someone would really listen to me,” he said. “Nobody wins [with violence]. You’re either going to go to prison or face an early death.”

The group also taps people in each neighborhood who fit that profile and want to improve their communities, he said.

McDougald Terrace residents say they’ve noticed a difference since Bull City United moved in about seven months ago.

“With them in the neighborhood, it’s calmed down a lot,” resident Tonie Jones said. “It’s actually great because the kids look up to the support that comes from Bull City United.”

The Week of Peace wasn’t too peaceful at the beginning.

Keith Antonio Watson, 29, of Durham, was shot to death in what police called a domestic disturbance in the 4200 block of Larchmont Road on Tuesday evening.

Murilio Domingo, 24, and 26-year-old Bertin Mendoza were found shot to death in the 2000 block of House Avenue later that night. Investigators said they believe the shootings were targeted.

“I try to remind the team that we can’t stop everything,” Clayton said. “I constantly remind them that just one life saved is tremendous.”

Upcoming Week of Peace events:

Friday: Liberty Street Housing Community, 100 block of Commerce Street, 6-8 p.m.

Saturday: North Durham Community, corner of Canal and Queen streets, 12-2 p.m.

Sunday: Southside Community, 100 E. Umstead St., 2-4 p.m.

Monday: Massey Avenue, corner of Massey Avenue and Fayetteville Street, 4-5 p.m.

Monday: McDougald Terrace Housing Community, 42B Ridgeway (in courtyard behind the building), 6-8 p.m.

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