Walk For Life

“NO MORE KILLING!” Walk For Life founder Rodney Williams leads a march down Glenbrook Drive on Saturday afternoon to reclaim the streets from the grips of fear and violent crime. “Call the police. That’s your job if you want your streets back,” said Williams. (Staff photo by Robert Berges)

“NO MORE KILLING!” Walk For Life founder Rodney Williams leads a march down Glenbrook Drive on Saturday afternoon to reclaim the streets from the grips of fear and violent crime. “Call the police. That’s your job if you want your streets back,” said Williams. (Staff photo by Robert Berges)

“You better get you a shotgun,” is the advice of one concerned man, sitting on his Waring Street porch.

Walk For Life founder Rodney Williams brushed it off with a smile, as he continued to deliver his fliers; he knows what he’s up against.

Williams was “born and raised” in this neighborhood off of Club Drive, and he is now the leader of the volunteer organization that aims to bring the community together, to take back their streets from violent crime.

This fall, Walk For Life is going to march in Durham’s most troubled neighborhoods, aiming at bringing neighbors closer together, creating a working relationship between police officers and citizens that is founded on trust and, especially, to stop violent crime in Durham.

Williams recalled his own childhood in Durham: “After school I could do my homework and come outside and play. Now they’ve got these kids in the house, hostage, and these kids shouldn’t be hostage no more.”

When Williams offered fliers to a small group of children, a boy of about 8 years old asked earnestly, “Are we going to get shot if we march?”

Another boy of about the same age laughed, “If you’re walking down the hood with a sign, ‘Stop doin’ violence,’ they gonna shoot you!”

Williams was not impressed.

“It’s hurting us, and we can’t let it hurt us no more, man. I just want to see these kids have fun and enjoy life, man. That’s what it’s about,” Williams told the crowd of marchers Sept. 13, in Durham’s Kerrwood neighborhood.

Williams has been surprised by the support he has received from other community groups, the City of Durham, and especially the Durham Police Department.

Deputy Police Chief Larry Smith told the crowd Saturday, “There’s been a lot of things going on in the media as it relates to the Durham P.D. and a lot of things going nationally that strains the relationship between law enforcement and our community, but I’m here to tell you that we need your help – and we’re here to help you.”

Smith applauded the community’s help in a recent arrest that resulted in an immediate decrease in firearm-related crime in the neighborhood, and stressed the importance of maintaining a productive relationship between the police and the residents of neighborhoods hit hardest by crime.

Smith said, “It’s important for the police and the community to understand that they can trust each other. We’ve got to find some common ground, and we can’t let what happened in the past, or what’s happened in another state, affect our relationship,”

“I also want you to understand if at any point you have a problem with one of our officers and you think something hasn’t been done right, you call me. You can call the office of the chief. There’s a number of ways you can call.”

The phone number for the Durham Police Department Chief of Police is (919) 560-4322.

Durham Housing Authority’s Resident Safety Specialist Robert Scott came to show his agency’s support for the movement. Scott simply told the residents, “We’ve got your back.”

Williams, explaining how the Durham Housing Authority can help support the needs of the community, said, “If you’re living in public housing [and] there is somebody that’s doing what they’re not supposed to be doing, you have to go up the chain of command. Everybody in this community can get them out of that house, but y’all have to give a paper trail – don’t be scared. You need to know the law.”

Durham Mayor Bill Bell came out to speak after the first march on Aug. 30 in McDougald Terrace Park. Bell encouraged residents to not make the same mistakes as the approximately 575 people currently in the Durham jail. “When you start doing violence,” he said, “your freedom goes away.”

Williams told the youth in attendance, “Most people don’t want to work at McDonald’s. They don’t want to work at Hardee’s, but Hardee’s is the come-up, a paper route is a come-up. Selling drugs, you’re going to jail or you’re going to be dead – listen to me good.”

Williams says one of the primary long-term goals of Walk For Life is to get more police in the communities on foot, getting to know the neighborhood on a personal level and developing genuine relationships. Williams believes this is the best way to build trust and get everybody working together in solidarity.

Durham Police Department has expressed support for the idea, but isn’t clear about how or when we will see an increase in this type of engagement.

Assistant Chief Winslow Forbes said, “Right now we do not have a specific plan [to increase foot patrol in high-crime neighborhoods]. The executive staff has been seeing what can we do to increase foot patrol, but we don’t have anything in place right now to do that. We currently do have officers that get out on foot and try to meet the neighbors, but I think there is a demand from the community to see more of that.”

Walk For Life will march next on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 12:45 p.m. starting at Oxford Manor in Durham’s Bragtown neighborhood.

Smith also offered the number of Durham Crime Stoppers: (919) 683-1200.






2 thoughts on “Walk For Life

  1. aroper900@gmail.com says:

    Just like to say that it’s good to see someone not afraid to put their foot down against the stupidity of some of this citys’ unguided youth! Enough is Enough!!!!

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