Safety in Numbers: Mobilizing against violence

By Purity Kimaiyo
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Durham residents outraged over gun crime and violence spurred the Safety in Numbers campaign which is celebrating the end of its inaugural year. Project Safe Neighborhoods, a division within the Durham Police Department, coordinates the campaign by partnering citizens with law enforcement representatives to reduce violent crime.

Residents joined Durham Police Officers for the Community Walk against Gun Crime in September. The walk was one of several events organized by Project Safe Neighborhoods for the Safety in Numbers campaign. Photo by Jeffrey Mittelstadt.

“Every member of the Durham community needs to be aware of violence prevention and gun safety,” said Jennifer Snyder, coordinator of Project Safe Neighborhoods. “Young families are moving into Durham and they want to know that it is safe for their children to play outside without the fear of gunshots.”

Members of Project Safe Neighborhoods conduct house to house visits and pass out brochures to enlighten the community on gun violence and expound on the preventive measures people can take.

They stress the importance of using gun locks and ensuring that legal firearms are locked in a cabinet with bullets removed and secured in a separate place. Snyder stresses that it is no longer safe to assume that children do not know where their parents keep guns.

“It’s like Christmas presents and they are clever enough to know where their parents hide guns,” said Snyder.

Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses on partnering with federal, state and local law enforcement together with the local community and faith-based organizations to develop, research, support and strategize to reduce violent crime in Durham.

Project Safe Neighborhoods also works closely with at-risk teens and has formed partnerships with N.C. Central University and the City’s of Durham Parks and Recreation (DPR) Department to provide mentoring and after-school activities for at-risk youths.

Police Chief Jose Lopez talks to community members about gun safety at the Walk against Gun Crime. Photo by Jeffrey Mittelstadt.

Many teenagers are victims of gun violence. Sabrina Hopkins, a resident of Durham, lost her brother through gun violence.

“My brother was out dancing when his best friend accidentally shot and killed him,” said Hopkins. “On realizing this, he shot himself too and died.”

Although gun crime decreased 13 percent in Durham between 2008 and 2009, it appeared to be creeping up again in the first half of 2010. In 2009, Durham reported 456 robberies with firearms, 340 aggravated assaults with firearms, according to gun crime analyst David Roth.

Even local celebrity figures have lent a hand with the campaign. Duke football coach David Cutcliffe and NCCU basketball coach Levelle Moton have appeared in television public service announcements for Project Safety in Numbers.

On September 23, the organization held a Community Walk against Gun Crime in downtown Durham.

“We teamed up with several neighborhood representatives, community members and the police officers to take the word to the streets about the effect of gun crime in our community,” said Snyder.

Other yearly events include the Community Conversation about Gun Crime in March, Prayer Breakfasts and the Safety in Numbers.So far Safety in Numbers has reached 29,000 people in their first year of service and their goal is to reach all the 250,000 people in Durham.

For more information about Safety in Numbers or Project Safe Neighborhoods, please contact the Project Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator at

(919) 560-4438 x29230


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