Durham’s Community Safety Challenge
Like many communities across America right now, Durham County faces an urgent challenge with community safety. Over the past three years, Durham experienced unprecedented violence, much of which has been gang-related. The City of Durham in 2020 experienced a record number of shootings (966), followed by a record number of homicides (50) in 2021. Victims of gang violence included people who were not part of gangs. They have been small children, elderly residents, and even law enforcement officers. Children have been caught in gang crossfire while sleeping in their own beds and waiting in the drive-thru line at Burger King. An off-duty Durham County deputy was shot when gang members confused his car for a rival gang members vehicle. Hundreds of guns were seized off our streets by law enforcement, with minor impact on the violence. I agree with Durham County’s current sheriff that “enough is enough,” but repeating these words over the past three years did nothing to end the violence. Gunfire has forever altered too many lives in Durham, and words alone from the current sheriff have not and will not stop this tragic epidemic which must come to an end.
- Most shooting victims are people of color, ranging from children to people over the age of 65. This violence is disproportionately hurting our low-income communities of color. That does NOT give us an excuse to ignore it.
- Most of the killings are with guns, but local law enforcement has limited power to stop the flow of guns into Durham County. This is just a fact of our state and federal laws. The sheriff does have the power to prioritize cases where guns are illegally provided to gang members and juveniles. And the sheriff has the authority to revoke gun permits of offenders.
- Most of Durham’s violence is gang related. There are over 2,050 validated gang members in Durham, an increase of 50 since the current sheriff took office in December 2018. If we target the people leading the gangs, we will stop a majority of the gun violence and prevent young people from dying in Durham’s streets. We have NOT been focused enough in stopping gang violence and gangs recruiting our young children into cycles of violence.
- Resources of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office are NOT focused to stop the violence effectively. There is no entity within the Sheriff’s Office with a specific focus on gang related criminal activity. There is a STRIKE Team that serves warrants, an Anti-Crime and Narcotics Unit that focuses on drug crimes, and a Deputy assigned to an ICE task force, but there is no one tasked to focus specifically on gangs.
- Durham is suffering from a challenge of trust in local law enforcement which can and must be repaired. ALL Durham residents deserve safer communities. They deserve higher standards from law enforcement. They deserve more transparency to regain trust. Higher standards are put into practice with better training, better recruiting and better retention of quality law enforcement professionals. This is realistically possible with more resources, not less. Defunding police is a catchy slogan, but it will lead to disastrous consequences for community safety.
Maria’s Pledge for Durham
- A Safer Durham
- Reduce gun violence and homicides. This is priority one.
- Target gang activity.
- Make sure resources are effectively assigned to adequately address gun and gang-involved crimes.
- Participate in Co-Response Teams to provide meaningful response and support to those experiencing a mental health crisis.
- Respect for All
- Treat everyone with respect no matter where they live, where they come from, or what they look like.
- Maintain a Detention Facility that is safe and humane with a priority to offer detainees a path to restore their lives.
- Recruit and retain a Sheriff’s Office staff that looks and reflects the Durham Co. community it serves.
- Trust & Transparency
- Guarantee that ALL deputies wear working body cameras.
- Maintain jail surveillance cameras that work throughout the jail.
- Communicate frequently and honestly to the press and public, and acknowledge failings and challenges as well as successes.
- Share use-of-data with the FBI so Durham residents know how often their Sheriff’s office is using force.
- Partnering with the Public to Rebuild Trust & Continually Re-imagine Community Safety
- Engage community and activist groups in ongoing conversation to listen and hear concern and ideas to improve.
- Remain open to ideas which make Durham safer with respect for all.
- Educate Our Youth
- Regularly communicate with students, parents and children about life choices, challenges, and careers.
- Provide the best trained School Resource Officers in North Carolina.