It’s bike month!

Once again Durham has quite a few events planned to celebrate bike month (don’t let the hail and rain scare you off, I’m sure the weather will get better). According to a press release sent out by Durham’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Dale McKeel:

Bike Month will be celebrated in Durham throughout the month of May. Through group rides, cyclist socials, giveaways, workshops, and other events, Bike Month provides opportunities for all Durhamites to learn more about safely bicycling in their community.

The first event is called the “Bull City Bike Fest,” which is going to be tomorrow (Saturday, May 2) at Solite park, running from 9 a.m. to noon. According to Dale’s email:

Activities include pump track demos, rides on the ATT with the Duke and UNC cycling teams, a Kids Parade (open to the public), Gateway Trail rides and pump track challenges.  Information booths will be present from many local cycling groups.

There’s a full list of the upcoming events over at bikedurham.org.

Protests are planned near the ATC on May 1

This one’s been making the rounds:

MEET AT THE POLICE HQ ON CHAPEL HILL RD. AT 5PM FOR A SHORT RALLY AND THEN MARCH TO THE JAIL ON S. MANGUM IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE ONGOING DEMONSTRATIONS TO END THE PRISONER LOCK-BACK.

I think they mean West Chapel Hill Street, not Chapel Hill Road. A common mistake, of course, given how many roads in Durham are named after Chapel Hill.

I’m not sure what to expect from this particular group, which goes by the name “Durham Solidarity Center.” Some of their FB comments state that this isn’t to be a destructive protest:

We are coding this action as a “yellow” action, meaning there may be some civil disobedience taking place that WILL NOT involve destruction of property. In line with our principles of unity, we ask that anyone wishing to express their solidarity with Baltimore using different tactics of direct action to choose a different TIME or PLACE.

There have been some social media interactions between this group, the UNC Anarchists, and prisonbooks.info in the past, and protests publicised by those other groups have sometimes resulted in property damage. Anarchists, as you may know, aren’t the best at following rules, so it’s hard to guess whether they’ll respect a request to avoid destroying things if they show up.

As of the time of this post there are 443 people who have confirmed attendence at the FB event, so this could be pretty big.

DPD, city sued by man claiming racial profiling

According to WRAL:

Ragland claims officers searched him and his vehicle in 2012 without his consent and without probable cause.

Ragland is asking for unspecified financial damages, for the department to change how it conducts traffic stops, to appoint a “special master” to oversee changes in police procedures, and to implement changes including eliminating “suspicionless” traffic stops and requiring officers to document in writing the purpose of their traffic stop before searching a vehicle.

The suit was brought by the NCCU Civil Litigation Clinic, which I assume means that NCCU law students will be working on the case. The supervising attorney is Scott Holmes, a faculty member at NCCU, and apparently also a ballet dancer (yanno, I feel like a ballet dancing attorney could be a decent concept for a superhero…).

It’s worth pointing out that the events in question allegedly occured in 2012; in the interim, the city has already issued some fairly strong responses to racial bias in the DPD (including requesting assistance from the DoJ).

The DoJ has some things to say about Durham’s violent crime

I don’t think it’s news that some communities in Durham have been impacted severely by violent crime. What is news, at least to me, is that the DoJ has been looking into this.

This brings to mind Ferguson, MO, where the DoJ investigated and presented scathing reports criticizing the way that community’s police force operated. Mayor Bell had apparently requested the Durham investigation earlier than that, though, in the wake of the death of Jesus Huerta and the protests which followed thereafter.

I think the tldr version of the report is that policing is hard, especially in impoverished communities. There doesn’t appear to be a “smoking gun” pointing to any particular major problem in the department, and instead there are a bunch of small things that the DPD can improve upon to build its relationship with the community.

A summary of the analysis is provided by the city (PDF). Even that summary is pretty long, so I’ll rip out some bullet points I found for you:

  • The city went to the DoJ for help in analyzing patterns of violent crime, developing data driven solutions to reduce that crime, and improving relations between the DPD and the citizens of Durham
  • The DoJ Diagnostic Center conducted interviews with representatives from law enforcement, city government, the courts, and community organizations.
  • Basic demographics are included, with some things you may have already known (that are notable nontheless):
    • Durham has a larger percentage of black residents than most cities across NC and the US as a whole
    • Durham residents are overall far better educated than the state or country
    • Durham has a greater proportion of residents earning $100k or more than the state or country
    • … and yet, Durham still has a higher poverty rate than the state and nation overall
  • Durham’s violent crime rate is now somewhat worse than the rate in cities with similar populations in NC, despite being somewhat better than those cities 10 years ago. This seems to be largely due to more rapid improvements in other cities (while Durham’s rate has failed to improve to the same extent)
  • Disturbingly, over the past few years the incidence of gun crime (especially homicide and aggravated assault) increased even as the overall violent crime rate decreased.
  • Even more disturbingly, the conviction rate for these crimes dropped.
  • The victims of these crimes were disproportionally likely to be black males between 15 and 34; as the study says that demographic’s rate is “6.4 times higher than the rate for all Durham residents”
  • Homicides and assaults were much more common in District 1 and District 3, specifically around Cleveland-Holloway and areas surrounding NCCU
  • Poverty and lack of education are major problems in most of the high crime areas, and most such areas are in African American communities.
  • Blacks are disproportionately likely to be busted for misdemeanor marijuana offenses in Durham
  • The DPD’s own demographics show that blacks are underrepresented compared to the city as a whole, but not dramatically (29% of the DPD force is black compared to 40% of the city).
  • Police feel they’re focusing on high crime areas (which happen to be mostly in minority communities) out of necessity, while people in those communities perceive this as disproportionate police pressure on minority populations.

The DoJ notes five areas of improvement and has some recommendations:

  • Gun crime seems to be the highest priority and has a few recommendations:
    • Expand the Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable (VCRR) and include more stakeholders from the community
    • Use a neutral facilitator to help develop a community-based response, and utilize federal resources.
    • Use public health outreach programs and mentorships to reach out to youth, encouraging employment development opportunities
  • To increase confidence in the DPD, focus on media outreach, building community connections, and transparency
  • The DPD can improve its response to gun crime; specifically it should work on the homicide clearance rate (which is close to the national average), identifying illegal firearms proactively, and an increased focus on identifying gang violence.
  • The DPD needs to focus on “community policing” to improve relationships with citizens.
  • The city should work to improve infrastructure gaps in poor areas

The DoJ goes on to identify resources the city can utilize towards improving these ends.

The city has completed the purchase of the new DPD HQ site

This isn’t really much of a surprise, but it’s notable since the transaction had been delayed previously.

I’ve already mentioned that I’m disappointed in this plan, which will result in the demolition of several buildings that were prime candidates for creative re-use in a district that seemed poised to take off.

At least one of the tenants being displaced has a bit of good news, though: the Bull City Ciderworks Kickstarter was successful.

That’s not snow, you guys

You might find it odd that the state would shut down after what appears to be about an inch of snow. But this isn’t snow: it’s ice. And ice sucks.

Really, wait for the plows if you can. Yes, some people can drive on ice just fine, but a few people who don’t know what they’re doing can mess things up for everybody else.

I suspect most schools will close again on Wednesday. Enjoy the forced vacation!