Activist has aims for 'Bull's Eye' effort

Durham program focuses on crime

Staff WriterJuly 18, 2008 

— Community activist Melvin Whitley thinks three things are needed to help improve conditions in a high-crime area of Durham.

Since last summer, Durham police have led "Operation Bull's Eye," a program in which extra police and social services are provided in a two-square-mile area, centered in East Durham, in an effort to reduce crime.

Police have pledged to continue their efforts after August, but Whitley said Thursday he thinks such efforts are pointless without an organized community. He wants Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal anti-violence program run through the police department, to oversee Bull's Eye efforts, along with a Web site and a telephone line so residents can know what's going on.

"We're doing it the same way expecting a different result," he said at a meeting of community leaders.

Durham police started the initiative after crime data showed the area accounted for a disproportionate number of aggravated assaults, robberies, validated gang member addresses and prostitution offenses between May 2006 and April 2007. In the effort's first six months, violent crimes involving firearms have declined 19 percent, drug calls were down by 4 percent and prostitution calls decreased by 23 percent.

Whitley said one problem has been a lack of support from the city, and City Council member Howard Clement, who was also at the meeting, agreed. Clement said the idea to pay someone to oversee and coordinate city and county services in the area never made it to the council.

"The council does support the Bull's Eye program, but it's been more or less lip service," Clement said. "We need to translate our rhetoric into something meaningful, and that's the concern that Rev. Whitley talked about."

Clement later added that Whitley's suggestions are good, "but the question is, can we work it with our budget constraints."

stan.chambers@newsobserver.com or (919) 956-2426

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