Researchers offer tips on Durham gang woes

Staff WriterJuly 14, 2007 

— Hiring someone to coordinate county anti-gang initiatives and paying close attention to those most vulnerable to gangs were among 12 suggestions two researchers, tasked with examining Durham's gang situation, made to a group of city and county criminal justice officials Friday.

Gang experts Buddy Howell and Deborah Lamm Weisel presented their recommendations before the Durham Crime Cabinet, which meets every other month to discuss county criminal justice issues. The suggestions will be part of their final report, which Weisel said should be completed in a few weeks.

Here are some recommendations from Howell and Weisel:

* Balance prevention, intervention and suppression efforts while using the gang assessment study to figure out what's needed most.

*Focus on those ages 12 and 13, those most likely to join a gang. Attention should be on early intervention programs, truancy enforcement, suspended students and unsupervised youth.

*Educate parents on gangs because almost 90 percent of grownups are unaware of signs of possible gang activity, according to a survey of school resource officers.

* Establish a one-stop juvenile assessment center. It would have assessment services, provide mental health and substance abuse services and be a truancy drop-off site.

*Provide tutoring and mentoring programs for younger gang members and jobs or job training for those aged 16 to 20.

*Increase the juvenile detention capacity for the existing facility only has 14 beds, which makes separating juveniles difficult.

*Use police resources more strategically such as adding two detectives to the Durham Police Department's 30-member gang unit, which should work more closely with school resource officers, juvenile detectives and patrol officers.

*Track effectiveness of gang efforts by examining case clearance rates, number of suspects and arrests.

*Implement rules such as gang members not being able to associate with other gang members in public view.

*Build public confidence expediting prosecution of serious crimes and ban cell phones and known gang members from courtrooms and waiting areas to reduce witness intimidation.

Staff writer Stanley B. Chambers Jr. can be reached at 956-2426 or stan.chambers@newsobserver.com.

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