|Durham Project Safe Neighborhoods|
This article appeared in the NCCC newsletter, dated January 2003.
Durham provides an example of how strong citizen support can help our government and police address important safety issues. Marcia Owen of the West Triangle Million Moms and Religious Coalition for a Non-Violent Durham files the following report on a new grant-funded initiative.
Durham is witnessing an epidemic of gun violence. Durham County leads the state in juvenile gun deaths - an average of one fatal shooting of a Durham youth, 17 or younger, every three months. In 2000, Durham's homicide rate was 15.1 per 100,000 people—almost 3 times the national homicide rate. An assessment of 1997-98 homicides shows that violent youthful offenders ages 18 to 25 accounted for two-thirds of these homicides and 93% used firearms.
In 2002, Durham averages one homicide every ten days. All but two of Durham's 29 homicides were committed with firearms. During the month of July, Duke University Medical Center reported 27 gunshot cases. Four Durham citizens died from gunshot wounds during that month.
Gun violence is occurring predominantly in Durham's poorer, African-American neighborhoods and with profound effects. Chronic shootings in these neighborhoods have become so dangerous that residents report that they are afraid to come out of their homes and often sleep on the floor and in bathtubs to shield themselves from stray bullets. Citizens throughout Durham understand the risk frequent shootings pose and many simply avoid neighborhoods with high incidences of gun violence, further isolating and impoverishing these areas of our city.
The US Attorney's office for the Middle District reports that approximately 8% of the criminal population commits 85% of the violent crime. Annually, approximately 400 offenders re-enter our community from state prison and 800 juveniles are served in Durham County's juvenile justice system.
The goal of the Durham Project Safe Neighborhoods and Community Engagement campaign initiative is to build a comprehensive, strategic response to the gun violence in our community that will save lives, reduce gunshot injuries, and provide safer neighborhoods for Durham citizens. The initiative will address the gun violence problem in the community by developing key criminal justice and community partnerships and data-driven strategies that will change the local norms from tolerance to intolerance of gun violence. It will utilize the resources of our federal, state and local justice organizations to gather intelligence about gun violence and to identify the individuals most at risk of gun violence. It will develop strong and effective communication among organizations and agencies and will seek to fully employ existing community anti-violence resources through a collaborative "action team" that connects resources with needs and enhances the capacity of both law enforcement and the community-at-large to solve the problem of gun violence. Concurrently, the Durham Project Safe Neighborhoods and Community Engagement campaign will implement systematic community outreach, a gun violence web page, and media campaigns designed to reach a broad cross-section of the Durham community and galvanize it to take positive preventive and rehabilitative actions to deter violence.
The Durham Police Department welcomes this opportunity to develop better gun crime intelligence and to work more closely with the Durham community to save lives and reduce gun violence throughout the city.