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.

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